Madou and the Beggar Woman
August 27, 2010
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Niger, my second home, is in the midst of a food crisis that’s worse than the devastation that hit the country in 2005. The people of Niger always struggle to feed their families, and typically spend a couple of months subsisting on one meal per day (or every other day). This year, though, the “lean season” is lasting half a year.
In light of this, I want to share a story about one of the most profound moments I experienced while living in Niger.
Madou was my best friend in the village, and I passed many hot afternoons and late evenings sitting with her, chatting about our neighbors and our lives. One day – when the harvest was still a ways off – she was cleaning up her cooking hut and emerged with a small bowl of millet grain. Showing it to me, she explained that this was all her family of seven had left to eat. And she didn’t know what they’d do when it was gone.
At that same moment, an old woman approached the entrance to Madou’s yard and stood there, singing a quiet song – a signal to the locals that she was begging for food. Madou walked over to the woman, still holding the bowl of millet, and dipped her hand into the grain to share with the beggar woman.
When Madou returned, I expected her to wallow further into expressing the woes of how she’d feed her children. But she didn’t. The only thing Madou said was “that poor old woman didn’t have any fingers.”
Madou’s family survived the lean season. And if she could be generous in the midst of it, what excuse do we have?
Madou pounding millet