We are so blessed that we don’t know it
Every day brings with it its own glory, its challenges and above all, an opportunity for everyone to do something to help the other man or woman. Sometimes we go about the road without even casting a glance around us, because we are caught up in our own world; obsessed with our own worries, or sometimes merely taking lingering glances at the good things that happened a few days ago.
The past few days made me realize how lucky and how rich I am. I do not need money to feel rich; all I need is a chance to see the new day and to breathe in the air.
If one gets the feeling that I am drifting into doddering old age, I hasten to say that I saw too many disasters in the past few days. There were eight fires in the first thirteen days of this month, each of them reducing people who were going about their lives with whatever problems they had to nothing but a quivering mass of sorrowful humanity.
It all started when I happened to be driving along the West Ruimveldt Front Road. Prime News, courtesy of Julia Johnson, had done a story about a man who had already lost his sight and whose daughter was heading down the same road.
A man walked off the streets and said to me that he wanted to contribute to the efforts to save this girl’s sight. Like me, he had a disabled relative—I have a mentally challenged grandson—and he wanted to do something to ease the burden of disability. He gave me some money to give to this family. So there I was driving down the road when I saw them.
A few days ago, a group of visually impaired people pooled some money to help the child. During the presentation, Linden Stewart, whom Guyana knows as the Mighty Smoker, said something that sent chills through me. “We want to help avoid her becoming like us.” He is comfortable in his blindness, but he did not want anyone to become blind like him.
There and then I began to look around and to give thanks that I still have a beautiful window to the world, that I can see colours and shapes and light and shadows. Later that day there was this blind man trying to cross Broad Street in the vicinity of Saffon Street. Cars refused to stop, so the man patiently stood at the pedestrian crossing, his ears cocked for a break in traffic.
I stopped and halted every vehicle approaching the spot where the man wanted to cross. I then directed him along the route he wanted to go. Not one of the other motorists cussed me out for delaying them. I suppose that they were touched.
Then the fires struck. My friend, who is like a daughter to me, lost her home. When I called her a few days later she was still a wreck. She still is.
Then the other night at work I got a phone call from a crying woman. A house was on fire in La Parfaite Harmonie, and children were in the house. I need not say how I felt. I had covered many fires in which people including children died. At each scene I thought of my own children.
A reporter went and returned with the grim news that two of those children perished in the blaze. I edited the story and went to my own home, thankful that I had somewhere to rest my head while others had their lives disrupted, perhaps irrevocably. My eyes made me realize how blessed I was.
Then came Friday. Another fire; this time in Kitty. I raced to the scene and got the grim details. I learnt of the people who occupied the home and I shared their pain. One woman, Anita Maxius, when told that she will rebuild, said “Rebuild? About 27 years of my life just gone down there. All the bills I had keeping gone.”
For her, a significant part of her life had been lost. As I watched, a woman ran up. Her home was in the same yard. She almost collapsed with relief. Then reality set in; her neighbour had lost hers. Her tears flowed.
It was not until I returned to the office and was preparing the story that I realized that the victims were people I knew. In my days visiting Kurupung, the home owner, Nellie Charles, fed me. I was an Information Officer then, responsible for Region Seven. That was almost forty years ago. But I should have realized from the moment I heard the name Maxius (pronounced Maxis). Imagine having to start over at this age.
But worse was to come. Early yesterday morning I got a telephone call that a woman was found floating in a canal. When I got to the scene, her son explained that he made the discovery. No child should ever have to go through that experience.
He spoke of looking for his mother Friday evening because he had brought meals for her. He returned yesterday morning and saw her hat and her cigarettes. Then he saw a track leading to the water edge before seeing the slippers she wore.
Then her sister came. This woman was prepared to go into the canal to retrieve her sister’s body. I don’t believe that she could swim. There were other relatives there and some of the woman’s friends, too. It was painful. And to crown it all, the woman was someone I knew.
My friend and schoolmate Perry Foo collapsed and died of a heart attack a few days earlier. He is still to be buried.
These disasters help me understand how rich and how happy I should be, regardless of any discomfort I may encounter. Indeed, I welcome and appreciate each passing day. And I welcome the opportunity to help people enjoy the very gifts I have. My mother is still alive and well; I still have a home and when last I checked I was not suffering from any ailment. And I have my sight—the window to the world.