In Tanzania, and other parts of Africa, it is customary for middle class and privileged households to hire young men or women to help with household chores, care for the children, and assist with other daily activities. The young men or women are often from less fortunate families and it is common for the individuals to not have education greater than the primary level. The individuals live with the family, eat with the family, and spend nearly all of their time at the family’s house. The owner of the house that we rent has two individuals that help her with household tasks. The young man completes many of the outside tasks and oversees the two rental houses, and the young woman completes many of the inside household chores for our landlord. Each individual receives a small monthly payment, along with room and board, for their work.
Throughout the past nine months, we have developed a working relationship with the helpers on the property. Rosie, the woman who helps with the inside tasks, works on the property and attends secondary school. Her English is pretty good because she is receiving education. Ima, the man who helps with the outside tasks and manages the rental properties, does not speak any English. When we have any questions, we try to speak broken Swahili to him and, when that does not work, we seek Rosie’s assistance! We are not incredibly close to either Rosie or Ima, but we greet each other every day and we often joke with one another.
On New Year’s Eve, after we dropped John’s parents off at the airport, we heard a knock on our door. For the first time in over six weeks we weren’t expecting any visitors, so we were a little surprised. We opened the door and found Rosie at our doorstep. She had a beautiful vase of roses in her hands and a bright smile on her face. She said, “Happy New Year” and handed us the lovely vase. We asked what the roses were for and who they were from. She told us that they were for us for New Years and that they were from her. We were stunned. We often tip Ima for odd jobs he does for us, but we’ve never tipped Rosie for anything. We always say hello to her and ask her how school is going, but we’ve never done anything special for her. She gave us the roses out of the kindness of her heart. She does not have much money, and she owes nothing to us; the gesture was completely out of the blue. We thanked her repeatedly, closed the door, and wondered what just happened. It was the perfect start to the New Year.
Rosie taught us a lesson that we hope we will never forget. Random acts of kindness – without expectation of anything in return – are an incredible way to show kindness, friendship, and peace. We decided that we will frame a photo of the roses when we go back to the U.S. to help us remember this simple lesson. We hope that the photo will remind us of Rosie’s kindness and how we too can be kind and generous … just because.