Updated: May 14
They just arrived one day. Unannounced and uninvited. Opening my curtains after a peaceful sleep, I caught a glimpse of the silent but very swift motion. My eyes were drawn to the corner outside my bedroom and there was the reason. A nest of mud was emerging. A study of this phenomenon truly intrigued me.
“How would I impart to these beautiful visitors the knowledge that they were very welcome, they would be allowed to finish what they started and that they would come to no harm from my hands? ”
So perfectly formed with such well - matched and rounded mud ‘bricks’. No gaps in between and seemingly very secure as it hung from the ceiling corner. The swallows had chosen my little verandah to build and soon raise a family. I felt privileged. Beneath on the floor was the overflow – the muddy bits that were discarded in order to construct this masterpiece for the next generation. A very small sacrifice for this special pair of guests. This brought about the biggest challenge! How would I impart to these beautiful visitors the knowledge that they were very welcome, they would be allowed to finish what they started and that they would come to no harm from my hands? Well, I don’t really know except to go about my peaceful days routinely and quietly and never do anything that could make them feel threatened or insecure. And then to mention my guests to any other humans and my decision to give them their space under my roof.
The progress has been constant and their commitment unwavering. It is nearing completion and our co-existence remains respectful and mindful. To most, these are just birds, a nuisance, they dirty the walls and the floors. I can’t view them like that. To me they are a welcome and peaceful distraction from a world filled with hatred, greed, selfishness and busyness for more! I sent up a prayer to thank my Creator for the gift of simplicity and of new beginnings.
Sitting and watching the activity from a distance reminded me of a community hated, cursed and completely misunderstood. We see them everywhere and they receive little or no recognition from those of us in our posh vehicles, in a hurry and demanding no interference with our journey to our next appointment. They are seen dressed in ragged clothing and hauling carts filled to overflowing with plastic bottles and cans along ‘our roads!’ They get in the way, they slow us down and they should not be there – ever! But they are there. And they are human beings and they have earned my respect! They are up when we are still asleep in our comfortably dressed beds. They walk vast distances and they sort through our rubbish, fill their canvas bags and then drag their carts to the sorting areas.
Why? To put food on their tables for their families and old folk. To buy stationery and uniforms to put their children through school. To pay for electricity when they can and sometimes to pay greedy ‘neighbours’ for water! It’s a very hard life. Every single one of these has a story to tell. A story of survival. A story of being hooted at, cursed and nearly hit by arrogant proud drivers. That’s how their ordinary day unfolds, but they simply carry on carrying on.
I have learned to respect them because they could choose the lazy path of demanding jobs, food, clothing and money by spending their energy in creating havoc on the streets with much noise and chanting and looting. They have chosen a different journey. They will tell you – we don’t make much, but we have worked for it. Perhaps next to our farm workers, the most hard-working and unappreciated of all our communities in South Africa, where everybody demands financial empowerment without work.
Like my swallow guests, I salute you who labour tirelessly. These people who all have a personal story, continue doing what they can in spite of their unspeakable hardships and the unjust behaviour of the privileged few. I pray that those of us who use roads will give them some human respect and dignity. Some might even assist them with cart-building?! I live in hope of a more just and fair society.
Blog post by: Rita Edkins