While it's true that sometimes they can be a source of frustration to me (see this post), they can also be amazing!
Tia Laura is one of my favorites. She is so special to me. This woman has been thru an amazing amount of difficulties in her life yet remains constant in her faith and joy. Once, when I was going home to the States, she gave me a gift of a capulana (a traditional piece of cloth woman use for skirts and other uses, one sign of womens wealth) to give to my mom. I was so touched!
Tia Laura has a lot of wisdom, love and compassion for our boys. She loves them like her own. One boy in particular she takes home with her during holidays and breaks. He has no known family so she has become his mom. Sadly, on one visit, he stole her son's cell phone (which they quickly recovered). I thought that would be the end of the visits home with her. But she said, "No, Mana Laura, he is my son. I don't just get rid of him when he does something wrong. I teach him and love him and pray for him." I loved her even more!
Recently, this Tia has had more than her share of trials. In addition to frequent, severe asthma attacks and challenges at home, she has suffered a horrific tragedy in her family. Her cousin was married with three children and his wife was expecting their fourth. A neighbor suspected the wife of stealing her cell phone. She accused the wife but the wife denied it. So the neighbor went to the local witch doctor who consulted the spirits, who told her that indeed, this pregnant woman, wife of my Tia's cousin, had stolen the phone. So the neighbor, in retribution for a cell phone, chained the door to their reed house in the middle of the night and set it on fire. The husband, wife, unborn baby and three children were all burned to death in their home. They were spirits all right - evil spirits.
I don't know how Tia Laura has coped with that as gracefully as she has.
But the story I wanted to share about her today is a lovely story!
While precious Naftal was in the hospital, he shared a room with two other young patients. One was little guy, only about two years old. The father was with him because the mother had gotten malaria and had to return home which was quite far away and travel back and forth was expensive. They had no family or friends here in Maputo since they weren't from here.
Upon the babies release, a few weeks after Naftal's death, the father had no means to pay for getting back home, which would cost about $10. He remembered Tia Laura and her kindness while in the hospital. Out of desperation, he called her and asked for her help. To make a long story short, she took him and the baby into her home that night, then gave him the money to make it back home. When they arrived, the mother called Tia Laura and thru her tears, thanked her over and over again for her kindness to her family.
Last week, the baby had a checkup so they had to come all the way back to Maputo. The mother insisted on coming with the father, even though this meant more money, because she wanted to meet Tia Laura in person to thank her. So once again, she brought them into her home to spend the night, brought the mother and baby into her bed with her while the father slept on the floor with her son. At first, the mother refused saying the baby will "make xi-xi" (which means pee) in the bed. Tia Laura simply replied, "then we will wash the sheets in the morning."
Are you struck by what I am struck by? This woman has a house with one small room for cooking and sitting and at night her son uses it to sleep on the floor. She has one more small room with one bed where she sleeps. Yet she offers hospitality to virtual strangers, not only to share her humble home but even her bed.
Now I realize that might freak some Western readers out, it is a different culture where sharing a bed wouldn't be as uncommon as it would be for Americans. But even in this culture, it is extraordinary.
And I, who have everything and more than I could ever want or need, am often so stingy and think "hey, I'm not rich, I don't have the money to help that person." How much more than a one-room cement block house, a bed and a mat do we need in order to help someone??]
I am humbled by this woman, my friend, Tia Laura. I am her namesake, her shara, although it certainly wasn't planned. And although she's only a few years older than me, I want to be like her when I grow up!
Most of you may know that "Tia" means "Auntie" in Spanish and Portuguese as well. It's also a term of politeness, or that's not exactly it, but respect for both strangers and people we know. So, if we are driving and stop to ask for directions, we usually start our question with "Tia, onde esta . . .?" (I'll just mention here that "Tio" means "Uncle" as well!)
Our Mozambican staff who work with the kids in the dorms are usually referred to as Tia or Tio. They are also referred to as Mana or Mano, another terms of respect. I am called by Mana Laura.
So in my posts, you often hear me saying, "my Tia did this" or something like that. I'm not actually talking about MY aunt (whom I call Auntie by the way) but about the ladies who work with me in the dorm.
Whew, that felt like a BIG explanation for a LITTLE idea!