She moves slowly at the sink. It’s Monday and there’s two days worth of dishes to wash by hand. She rubs her head, but it’s not the dishes that bother her.
We spent the weekend thinking and praying about what we needed to do next. What sort of responsibility were we willing to bear for our house-helper’s son’s education? We went back and forth about how financially it didn’t make sense to do it; but in our hearts it didn’t feel right not to.
Monday came and we had made a decision. We wanted to help her son go to the same school our kids did. For the next few years we would pay tuition, books and bus fees for him. It’s what felt right, would be easy to get him in since we were already paying for three and we both agreed.
When she arrived that morning we told her the news. She seemed happy, but not overly so. I assumed it was simply a matter of personality. But later, when I had a friend over who speaks Hindi, she had some questions that needed translating. Things she wanted clarity, with no chance for miscommunication.
Her head had started aching badly. Stress. Tension, which is her typical word of choice when she’s feeling overwhelmed. She appreciated the gift, but after three years, then what? Where would her son go then?
We talked back and forth. Our thought was not to leave her completely on her own at the end of the time, but I wanted her to feel some responsibility for this as well. In my mind three years was a solid foundation and enough time to save and make a plan. Even if it wasn’t this school, that should be enough time to sort out a new one. And it’s India, anything is possible.
But she felt overwhelmed and fear had started to creep in. The next day was no better. Her head still ached and all day long she was distracted, to the point I couldn’t focus either. She had talked to other people. Formed a new plan– one that involved me helping her to find a new school, a cheaper one that still met all of her hopes and expectations, but one she could afford if we were no longer in the picture.
I wasn’t as keen on this plan for a variety of reasons, but today we decided minutes before she arrived to take her around to a few schools. Buy applications, see the schools and talk with the administration about possibilities. Honestly, she had never seen anything except a government school and her eyes were opened at the opportunities available for her son. By the third school, our kids’ school, she started to feel overwhelmed again. She became so overwhelmed her headache returned and she felt nauseated so we took her home.
To say this was not the reaction I had hoped for is an understatement, but I’m trying to put myself in her shoes. Though I know that’s impossible. Still, it feels so strange hold out a gift that I’m not sure she wants or perhaps she simply doesn’t know what to do with it.
Maybe she feels very small right now, even if she can’t express it, as she enters a world that is as foreign to her as a slum would be to me.
Anyway, we sent her home and I’ve felt drained all day. Wanting to help and knowing how to is such a challenge here. So let’s see how the next few days will work out and if we can figure out a solution that makes everyone happy.