Two friends were walking throught the desert. During some point they had an argument, resulting in one friend slapping the other in the face. The one who was slapped was hurt, but without saying anything, wrote in the sand “today my best friend slapped me in the face.” They kept walking until they found an oasis where they decide to go bathing. The one who had been slapped got stuck in the mine and started drowning, but the friend saved him. After he recovered from the near drowning, he wrote on a stone “today my best friend saved my life.” The friend who slapped and saved his best friend, asked him “after I hurt you, you wrote in the sand and now you write on a stone—why?” The other friend replied, “when someone hurts us we should write it down in the sand where winds of forgiveness can erase it away, but when someone does sonething good for us, we must engrave it in stone where no wind can ever erase it.”
The moral of the story is not to value the things you have in life, but value who you have in life!
This leads me to talking about two special friends here in Mmathethe, and what they demonstrate about friendship on a daily basis. These two gals found each other early in primary school and have had a growing friendship since. In many ways they are complete opposites, but as they say---opposites attract, right. One is vulnerable, the other strong, one is shy, the other shyer, one lives without electricity or water, the other has both, one has an intact family, the other doesn't, both are highly intelligent, but one has to work harder in school. When one looks in the mirror and thinks she's ugly, the other tells her she's beautiful. When one got in trouble for not doing well in school, the other told her to try harder and see the good in everything. They both tell each other to respect life, not to fall into the traps of peer pressure, and both want to help find a cure for HIV. I've grown to love these two beautiful teens who fit together like a glove, and have shared their friendship with a stranger.
I know these two not by coincidence, one is my direct neighbor who came knocking on my door my first night in Mmathethe, scaring the heebeejeebees out of me, but in the softest of voices told me not to be frightened. The other came knocking at my door with her older sister after seeing me at our first assembly in school, thinking I could help her sister who works diligently with AIDS victims. I had not known then that these two kids were connected to each other until they both came over together a few weeks later to talk. They asked many questions about the States and about life. Instead of the typical “can you take me there,” they humbly took information in, and with wonder, just asked for more details. Through the coming weeks, I taught them how to play UNO, backgammon, other card games, and they have been here on Saturday nights glued to movies on my computer. When there was a fierce African thunderstorm, it was my porch they took refuge in. I've trusted these kids to take care of Keoki when I go to trainings or overnight to Kanye. When Kesego visits me, they tenderly teach her the games I have taught them. Innately, knowing that my birthday was spent so far away from home, these kids, who barely have anything, thought enough of our friendship to present me with a beautiful African basket---you bet the tears starting rolling down my cheeks. There are many stories of friendship with more depth and dimension, but these two understand the art of giving and receiving in a place where that is not always the case---and it is that which makes these two kids and their friendship special.
I've not always been a good friend....I've not always known the art of sharing....I've not always valued what was most important....but now, at the age of 55, being in the Peace Corps, and seeing these two kids together with their outlook on life and friendship, can show anyone that with a friend in hand you can see the light---with a friend in hand, everything will be alright!