A Rug of Many Colors

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“I –“

I looked at the widow, hungry and lean. Dressed in the brightest of colors but wearing the solemnest of faces.

“I thought that maybe it would help.”

The children of an organization were prancing around the living room in their precious new clothes. Little bare feet smacked happily on the finished concrete floor, no longer orphans, but sons and daughters — at least in the hungry eyes of the widows.

Tired faces stared at the blessings of our children longingly. It was uncomfortable to help some more than others, but NGO directors are aware that they can only take custody of children, not adult women — and certainly not adult women and their children.

There are so many orphans — that have so many problems — that they could easily absorb all of your attention without ever giving you an opportunity to look up…

…but there were always the widows — suffering somewhere on the margins of your peripheral vision,

…and the heart of every loving person hurts with the knowledge that you can only help their children once they’ve died from the very injustices which break their backs, and age their bodies, and follow your own children with sorrowful eyes. It was the safest way to protect your registration, because if a mother complained against an institution, there would be sure to be press and bribes that might endanger all who sought refuge there.

Despite the new clothes, some of the children squealed in the back bedroom, not wanting to sort out the old and bring in the new. It was a rainbow-colored mountain of pure laundry disaster which had more than forty arms and legs carrying bundles which would have to be washed — by hand. Mostly cheerfully, but some a little downcast, liking what they had gotten last year more than this year. The children had already been asked to let go of so many of life’s irreplaceable comforts, that the frowns of a few were understood by the hearts of many.

And yet it smelled clean and felt joyful — for the most part.

All except for the widows. We could offer them work. We could pay them well.

All of the clothes that were too damaged went into one pile. To do a project.

We wanted to make a rug. A rug of many colors. Which would consist of old pajamas, blankets, socks — anything that was too damaged to aptly cover body parts, fell immediately to the widows who huddled near the piles of clothes, in disbelief that we would really cut the fragments up into little bitty pieces and make a rug from them. And yet — a rug was a requirement from the governmental inspector. The cost of a rug was nearly $250 USD. After throwing a brief fit about the “new requirement” for “operating a children’s home” I marched to one staff member, and sent her marching to the widow’s village, as I would rather pay the widows a man’s wage to make a rug which could also help to feed their children, than allow a greedy shop owner or corrupt government official to use that much of our budget for an overpriced rug, or allow them to throw one of our children out on the streets as punishment for not keeping up with their requirements.

The widows stared doubtfully at the rags. For even they could get in trouble for cutting clothes. And even they could get in trouble from the officials for doing labor they were not “qualified” to do. Or making a wage that they were not “allowed” to make.

“I promise…” I kind of stuttered, understanding everything that they were thinking, and yet not sure how to convince them that this was a needed favor.

“You deserve this. And I’ll protect you.”

And thus, the projecting with the widows began.

Author: Ada Nicole

A human rights worker in developing nations.