Thursday morning I travelled to Kofuridua to get my Visa updated. I needed to meet Kujo at the lorry station for six a.m., so I taxied there in the cool morning air. I found the Kofuridua tro-tro’s with ease, as it was the second visit in one week to get things with my Visa sorted out. I sat down to wait on a bench for Kujo (oh Africa time!) and watched the chickens fluttering around, as they so often do everywhere you go. They are so much prettier here, with bright reds and oranges and sometimes even flecks of green. They love to prance around, with little chicks flocking behind them. To the side of the lorry station I watched as shopkeepers opened up for another soon-to-be busy market day, and as I got lost in my still tired mind, I heard a woman’s voice close to my shoulder.
“One cedi,” she insisted. “One cedi.” I looked to her, unsure of what she was trying to sell, but when I saw nothing in her hands, I shook my head. “Pacho.” She was insistent, offering her ‘please’ in Twi. “Pacho.” I shook my head again, and with a hesitation, she turned away, already briskly walking towards someone else to ask for money. I watched her, seeing it happen again and again, her boldness growing. She would walk up to men, poke their shoulders, and beg for money. In response they would yell, sometimes pushing her away, and I even saw one of the ticket sellers grab a ruler and threaten to hit her unless she left.
What struck me were my thoughts. Being a foreigner and a white traveller has made my defenses rise; I instantly hate the assumption that because I am white and different I am incredibly wealthy. So it makes me draw back, and not give at all. Which isn’t good. And I wrestled with that as I watched her move from person to person, begging.
That could have been me. It could have been me begging for money, so lost and anxious that I was driven to beg complete strangers for money. And I know she could have been asking to feed a habit, I know that. But she could have also been asking because she was hungry.
And so I sat on that bench and I wrestled. I wanted to go find her once she left and give her something to eat; I wanted to offer her a hand and let her know that someone cared.
But instead I worried what others would think; I worried what others would think when the obruni, who is already strange to begin with, chased after the beggar to offer her a few cedis. And in the end, those thoughts won, and when our tro-tro finally left the station and I saw her wandering between the tro-tros, my heart hurt.
Because I should have done what Jesus would have done. I should have run after her, and I should have given her a hug. I should have given her something to drink, something to eat, because even though others would have thought is strange, sometimes the strange thing is the right thing.
And so even though I know that now, I still am haunted by her voice and her face and I pray that God would bring her back into my path so that I might have the chance again.
To do the strange thing. To do the right thing.