|Johanna and Old Lady|
Kindness to children is never forgotten.
You know that one adult that takes a moment to listen to a dreamy child, without saying anything profound and the child doesn’t say anything in particular either. Nothing is really said but the child understands there’s a grownup that sees and cares. Those moments might have words, but it isn’t the words that convey any meaning.
Johanna was that adult for me.
She lived in a room behind our house and worked for my parents; responsible for the cooking, the cleaning and the laundry. The title is maid in South Africa but that doesn’t really explain everything she was to me.
When I was 12 I wrote a poem about Johanna which appeared in the school magazine. I’m looking at it now and smiling.
The class of ’74 have gone on to become pediatricians, accountants and architects. We were given more chances in life than Johanna who never learned to read or write.
But even without knowing letters and numbers, without any education at all, you can make a huge impact on a child’s life.
Kindness, cooking well, respect and the daily practice of taking care of others are all the things I learned from Johanna. And every time I do those things I pay her gift to me forward.
My parents called to say she died last night. I never told her before she died how much she meant to me.
But I know that without words, she knew what I am struggling to say now.
There are no words for love.
This is the poem: