One of our last days left in africa was spent in Franschhoek, a town of craft, art, food and despair. We sat at a cafe having a cool drink and lunch. My eyes drifted to across the road where the curio stands were lined in their designated row. I watched as the men at each stand quietly scanned the occasional tourist walking past and then moved forward to offer their art and goods.
Mana was restless and we all seemed a little unreasonable and testy this particular day, as we knew our time here was almost over. So I said to Jonah you have a little money left let's go and choose a curio. Mana hopped in her stroller and we left Wayne and Luca to enjoy some last moments together of what time we had left in Africa.
We crossed the street to walk along the stalls, by the second one we were ready to take a closer look, we had a chat with the man about his stone carvings and established he was from zimbabwe like so many seem to be... Jonah was eyeing a lovely carved lion as we had been to a lion sanctuary the day before where the lions had roared into our soul with such a depth that had made our legs turn to jelly.... Anyway he decided on the lion and the man keenly and gently folded it in bubble wrap and brown crinkly paper.
We decided to walk to the end of the stalls for more of a look and me repeating as I went "just looking thanks" to each of the stall holders as they approached us with their slightly pleading eyes. And me as the adult averting my eyes from practice, knowing how persistent some sellers can be, but these guys were o.k. and backed away a little dejected to give us space....
As we turned to walk back Jonah was a few steps ahead and I noticed one of the stall holders looking at him with a slight frown and then he said to Jonah " Its alright my boy, no need to cry, its all good"....... I thought maybe he just looked weary but then as I quickened my pace to reach him and he angled his head down even further as I tried to peer at his face under his cap........I knew he was crying...........and I knew why those tears slid down his little cheeks as he tried to wipe them away...but I still asked " what's the matter Jonah?".... He said in the quietest voice "We can't buy from them all can we mum" and what he really meant was... we cant help them all...can we mum......my heart fell to the ground at his utter sadness.
I put my arm around him and we sat down on the curb and as the tears welled in my own eyes I said.." Its ok"...though I knew it was far from ok.... " they are fine, lots of people buy from them ... see look there's another man buying something over there and look at the kids playing behind the stalls ...their happy Jonah" and they were for now, a father sat with a little toddler and played a game with a plastic bottle ......... But I knew Jonah could see through all that, he saw to their own despair, their displacement, desperation and despondency.
He had seen lots of things on this trip.........miles and miles of shanti houses, women eating out of garbage bins, people begging for help on the streets, lost people, hurt people, hungry people, angry people and barely alive people....oh yeah he had seen lots..
I hope they knew what the tears were for as they watched us talk and us looking back at them, and me trying to explain to a 10 year old the poverty of this world...the madness of this world.
I hope they knew those tears were for them......