Monday, April 7, 2014

Old Man's Hands

His hands were rough.  Calloused and worn with time.  Dry and white, I foolishly believed I should be gentle or risk tearing them apart.  But they have become that way with years of toil.  He carried a hammer in one hand and a crowbar in the other; passing it to free right and shake mine in warm greeting.  My own hands are embarrassingly soft.  A desk jockey's hands, skin untouched by labor.  He's never sat at a desk.  I'm embarrassed in front of this man who earned his keep.  But only for a moment as his warm smile reassures me.  Like we are old friends though we've only ever crossed paths and spoken in the street.  It is people like him that make me want to make Africa a more hospitable place.  Ease his burden. Allow him to rest.  Of course he is old and happy.  Proud of his life.  Or so I imagine.  At least content that this is his lot.  Still, don't we all deserve some rest in this world?  If it is to be in proportion to works done, his is past due.

There is a noticeable difference in the way the truly old treat me compared with the young.  Maybe after enough time surviving, you just become content.  I think it might be that their dreams and desires from youth no longer weigh them down.  They accept their lot.  I spend most of my time with the old men of my village.  I like them more; it's easier.  Everyone else sees me as a means to something.  From the extreme ticket to America, to a job, or to just an extra buck.  You hear the phrase "It doesn't hurt to ask" all the time.  We've the same saying.  But it isn't true.  It hurts me to deny everyone else the country I love so much.  The opportunity, the peace, the chance at prosperity.  Do we have our unhappy poor?  Of course.  But compared with the poverty here ours seems so minuscule.