by Kenneth Justice
~A while back a mid-fortyish woman sat down with me at coffee and began sharing her story. In pretty good English she explained to me that she had immigrated to the United States from Eastern Europe; “My husband and I met at a dance in my home country and we married the next day. I spoke no English, and he couldn’t speak my language…..so for the first year I lived in the U.S. we could barely communicate”
It turns out she learned to speak English by watching American television and by the end of the first year she had acquired a good grasp of the language….mainly because she never left the house and had little else to do. Her days were spent cooking, cleaning, and sleeping with her ‘husband’. In return, he sent a monthly stipend to the woman’s teenage daughter back in Europe in order for the daughter to attend University.
You see, the reason the woman agreed to marry a man she had only met once, couldn’t communicate with, and move to a foreign country…..was all for her daughter. Back in Europe, her first husband by whom she became pregnant had abandoned her. She didn’t have enough money to send her daughter to school and because of the massive unemployment back home; she believed the only chance in life that her daughter had was to earn a college degree.
Life had been difficult for the woman living in Europe….and now that she was in the United States it wasn’t any easier. “I’ve been here for 3 years and have only recently begun to make a couple friends. I believe my husband suffers from some type of mental problem because he never leaves the house except to buy groceries. He has no friends, no acquaintances, and never even gets phone calls from people”.
I can’t imagine what life must be like for someone who literally trades everything they’ve ever known to move thousands of miles across the ocean to a land where they can’t even speak the language……all because of the love she has for her child.
“Would you have married the man if not for your child?” I asked
She shook her head, “Do not ask questions like that, it is no good to dwell on things that are not” she said
So was the tradeoff worth it; sex and marriage for her child’s education? Would I have done it if I were in the mother’s place……I simply don’t know. Life can be very difficult depending on our circumstances. When I travel to Central America, where prostitution is legal, the women (usually mothers I suspect) who work as prostitutes are much more visible than here in the United States where the practice is illegal and must be done behind the eyes of the seeing public. I’ve often wondered what it must be like to trade your body for the sake of your children. It is heart wrenching to realize that this is what occurs every day, throughout every part of the world.
Not to trivialize my own struggles in life….but when I put them in perspective with the struggles of that woman I had coffee with; it seems like I don’t even know what real hardship truly feels like. Yet while it’s important to remind myself that there are people who are really in need all around the world….it is every bit as important that I don’t forget about those who are living next door to me.
I can’t tell you how many single mothers I have come across here in the U.S. who are struggling to pay their bills on time every month. Thank god for all of the divorced dads who are still involved in their children’s lives…..but unfortunately there are a lot of fathers who are entirely absent; leaving a tremendous burden upon the shoulders of the mother.
It’s also amazing to me how many couples are out there who are not divorced, who are sticking together….but are barely getting by each month financially. Both parents work and are still overwhelmed with trying to pay their house bill, groceries, utilities, and still have something left over to buy holiday presents for their children. These are the families that sit next to us at church and at coffee; they look no different than you or I.
—) Sometimes, all it takes to help someone is to offer to babysit their children one night a week for free
—) Sometimes, all it takes to really change someone’s life for the better is to help pay for their electric bill one month
—) Sometimes, all it takes to make a difference is to begin being a friend to someone who doesn’t have any friends
While my heart goes out to all of the people in need all around the globe, I realize that I can only do so much. I can only help so many people…….
But I can begin making a difference one little day-at-a-time. Perhaps that is why I keep my table open at the café to anyone who wants to sit down and talk. It isn’t much, but it is the least I can do…..
Time for another cup of coffee,
Categories: People Without Faces