30 March 2016
J was late for work yesterday morning. Unusual and frustrating.
I needed to leave on time to put the kids to the day camp. Every minute of delay meant an extra
couple of instruction barking in the car in order to calm the hysteria on the back seats.
Half an hour later than usual, there she was.
We exchanged greetings, I asked her to lock the door behind me and I left.
There was no coffee on the kitchen counter therefore I quickly decided to go grab some pads
from the mall before I returned home for lunch.
J has been my cleaning lady for a few years now, and though she sometimes drives me nuts with
her system of tidying the house, she is a golden pepite. She is of Polish origin and as I learned it
with the years… you can lick from the floor where she passes with her cleaning arsenal. I
sometimes wonder that I still have a floor or that the tiles didn’t wear out from so much dedication
J does not speak French fluently, nor Dutch or English for that matter. However we get along on
some other ‘levels’. We discuss with hands and ‘hmmm’s’ adn ‘oh’s’ and yes’s and no’s. She gets
busy, I am happy, the house is clean and if I want to find something after she cleaned… I need to
put things in perspective and search for the system behind strategy, or the other way around.
I returned around noon with a fresh reserve of coffee supply. We always have coffee together
before she starts working. With cream and sugar and chocolate or biscuits. Because we are
women and we know what’s worthy in life. So when there’s chocolate cake in the fridge… dessert
is happily shared.
J was busy ironing a mountain of clothes: those I brought back from Orlando plus those from 2
weeks before as she had been down with a flu. She was silent, concentrating on her duty. I could
hear the huffing and puffing of the ironing device. From time to time a short buzz on her gsm. I
brought her a coffee and 2 chocolate eggs. Yeah, the Easter bunny was generous with us this
I sat at the pc. After a while I turned my head slowly to watch her.
“How are the girls? ‘ I asked.
“Fine. The older one is at home, the little one is at the kindergarten.”
“What brought the Easter Bunny to them?”
“Chocolate” she answered.
I was fixing her, she stopped ironing. Her immensely blue eyes were filled with tears. She was
fighting to keep them between the eyelids.
My alarm systems went off.
“How are the girls?” I repeated the question standing next to her.
She dropped her hands on the ironing board, then covered her mouth with the back of her palm,
sighed and began to cry.
One week ago her daughter took the metro to go to school. She had a ‘very important’ school
paper to hand in so she was in a rush. She stepped into the metro preceding the one that
exploded in Maalbeek.
She was safe and shocked.
The next day she stayed at home. She could not close her eyes during the night because of the
On Thursday she returned to school.
She takes the metro every single day. J is dying inside of fear… every single day her daughter
needs to go to school.
She hasn’t talked to anybody about her feelings.
Fear drains any ounce of energy she might have in the morning when the sun rises.
Her husband does not talk about ‘such things’.
She works day in day out, she does not have friends to talk to about what happened.
All I did was to listen to her. The way I would have liked to have somebody to listen to me,
perhaps. I got frustrated with the language barrier though I understood that my limitations would
not help her. She promised to follow my advice though and make an appointment with her Polish
doctor to talk about her feelings.
“Now it’s your turn to make me a coffee”, I joked. She wiped her tears and a generous smile
flourished on her face.
While I am writing I am thinking about John’s question: “What have you learned from this?”
Never take people for granted.
Treat them with respect. Their story is sometimes much more important than your personal
Listen to hear. Be their friend in need.
When you cannot help, do not harm. Sometimes you being there is all they need.
And when none of the above solves an issue, try coffee. With sugar, cream and chocolate eggs.
It surely wipes tears off a beautiful face.
Share your Light and Love…