Dear Zola,

It’s been a long time since you worked for us.

It still grates against my inner conscience to even say those words, that you “worked for us.”  But it was a challenging chapter of my life, and you were a breath of fresh air.

The friends who offered to hire you on our behalf could see that I wasn’t coping with a three-year-old, a one-year-old and a newly adopted six-year-old, so they said they would pay for you to come help me one day a week.


Photo Credit: Tyler Yeo, Flickr Creative Commons
Photo Credit: Tyler Yeo, Flickr Creative Commons


You would wake up in your shanty before dark to catch a taxi, then a train and finally another taxi before ringing the buzzer at our block of flats in the city.  And it always felt strange to me that you would leave your own home and children to come help me with mine, and maybe I’ll never resolve it in my heart.

But you blessed us, and we loved you.

Not for making things easier or tidier or cleaner (which you did), but for the way your eyes sparkled and your smile shone even brighter, and how we laughed together when we sat down for tea or lunch.

I wish I had known more about your story, but it felt impolite to ask, at the time.  I was glad for you when you came one day and told me you had found a full-time job as a nanny.  I often think of you, and wonder how you’re doing now, with your wide and generous smile.

I’m grateful for what you taught me during our short time together, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.

How you showed me the strength of a woman.  The dignity of work.  The beauty of humility and service.  And you did it all with such a radiant and contagious smile.  And though we may never cross paths again in this life, I’m so grateful for the moments that we did.


Related post:  A Day in the Life of a Domestic Worker

This is Day 13 of 31 Days of Life in South Africa.  For similar posts, click here.  To receive these posts in your inbox, enter your e-mail address in the sidebar on the right.


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13 thoughts on “dear zola {day 13 :: work}

  1. I grew up in Zimbabwe and we had live in servants. I too struggle with this concept now that I am an adult living in Australia. I struggle knowing the standard of the accommodation that they lived in and many other things. What does stick with me though is how much a part of the family they were. I still get teary thinking of saying good bye when we moved. Like you, I think I will never fully resolve this issue so choose to focus on the good.

  2. I struggled with my host families wanting to do various things for me for awhile, until I realized that they were just treating me like family. It’s amazing how they took in this strange American without a second thought, named me, and just treated me like a daughter. Such a blessing!

  3. Isn’t it amazing how God always puts just who we need in our path, just when we need them? It’s too bad that often we don’t recognize the gift and the divine appointment until later. Here’s to being more intentional in thanking God for the people he’s put in my path today!

  4. This is such a lovely entry. It makes me recall a sweet lady who used to come and help my mom occasionally with cleaning our house when I was an older teenager. I have such fond memories of sitting at the table with her, drinking coffee and chatting before she began her work for the day. She was always so kind and eventually became a good family friend. She shared her life wisdom with me, listened to my teenaged concerns, and showed me lots of love. These days we still keep in touch but don’t see her quite as often, although she did attend my wedding and has gotten to know my three children some too. I am grateful for her presence in my life.

  5. I can relate to your post. I have a wonderful lady helping me once a week in my house as I had an arm injury (I blogged about it yesterday) and I cannot use my arm 100% She is a real blessing and a light in my life. I cannot imagine life without her and I appreciate her dearly.

  6. What a wonderful piece! I can relate to that, it is between blessing and discomfort of having people help you…May we learn to appreciate those people we have around now, listen to their stories and get to know their hearts.

  7. Oh, I can see her face without even seeing her. 😀 I can only imagine what a treasure she was for you and I can only imagine how you feel about her now… I remember your other post talking about her (I believe it was her)…and thinking how it was for a woman to have to leave her own family to take care of another’s, but I trust God has used that in her life to provide for her own and in His own way He makes it right. Right? I’m rambling, but I love this part of your story and her story and I’m glad you shared and linked up today. Love you, Kate.

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