A couple of Saturdays ago, I left home quite early in the morning with our two daughters. It was a busy day ahead with many things to do. We were going to have an outreach event, supporting at a home for children suffering from cancer.
The agenda was to spend time playing with the children, cooking food for them, providing supplies and just generally loving them as best as we could. This was in honour of a friend and pastor of ours who passed on two years ago and who had such a heart for children like these. I also needed to attend a funeral service for a former colleague and friend so the plan was to drop them at the home, dash to the church for the service and then join them after.
As we made our way, the main road ahead seemed to have a little traffic. I did not want to be late so I took a shortcut. That was going smoothly until I saw a huge truck ahead and wondered how it would make its way past without scratching our car on the narrow road we were on. I saw the car ahead of me doing its best to inch as much as possible towards the left side of the road and decided I needed to do the same to create as a wide a path for the truck. I don’t know how I did not see her but I didn’t. Seconds later, I felt I had hit something. I looked up and saw that I had hit a woman. I did not even know I had hit her until I heard her shout. I had assumed I had possibly hit a stone or something else on the road.
I stopped the car and got out to check on her. And that’s when I noticed she was pregnant.
Even more panic!
Luckily, she had not fallen. I had been driving slowly. I offered profuse apologies. As can be imagined, and understood, they were not accepted. A few people gathered. I could tell I was clearly the villain in this scene. When I asked her where was hurting, she said it was just her foot. I realised with such relief that I had really bumped into her and she had moved forward unexpectedly and twisted her foot. When we examined it, it was not swollen or dangling at a funny angle. It just hurt. Other than that, she did not seem to have any injury or pain. More relief flooded me. I apologised again and asked her to have it checked out at a clinic. I rushed back to the car, picked my wallet and gave her some money to do so.
One of the woman’s friends thanked me for stopping, for checking on her and for giving her money. She was the only one who appreciated my position. “These things happen,” she told me and continued, “You have done well to help our friend. Thank you so much for your kindness.” I believe her calm and gentle manner saved me from insults or other demands from especially a few boda riders who had gathered around.
She then asked me if I could help a little more and drop the woman who was on her way to town, off at the main road. When I asked the woman where she was going, and she answered, I realised I could take her much further and drop her closer to her destination than just the main road.
She accepted the offer. She got into the car and I drove to the place where we had agreed I could drop her. As she got out of the car and walked to get a boda, I noticed she was limping less. The guilt I had reduced.
I was relieved that it had not been worse on so many fronts. But the memory I carry most from that day is the way our daughters reacted.
First when I realised I had knocked someone, I told them what had happened. They did not panic or question me endlessly. The first thing they did was tell me, “Sorry mummy.”
That was uplifting. Many times when we make certain mistakes, what we need is for someone to empathise first before lecturing, admonishing, judging or quarrelling with us. After that, once we drove off with the woman, the girls continued their chats at the back, talking and laughing a little. This signalled to me that they were fine and that they still felt mummy was in control. Even if I had made such a mistake, they were not scared of being in the car with me, or wondering in silence, what would happen next. They carried on because they knew, “Mummy’s got this, everything will be okay.”
After we dropped the lady off and continued on our way, both of them said, “Thank you Mummy…”
I asked them what they were thanking me for.
“For being kind. For stopping and checking on the woman. For saying sorry. For giving her money to help her. And for even taking her further than they had asked you to,” they said, one after the other.
“You are welcome dears,” I replied with a big smile on my face. I knew that despite the error I had made, our daughters had learnt a lesson on taking responsibility and being kind. I had also learnt that even if I make mistakes, they look past them and see that I am still their mother, who loves them very much and they do not define me by my mistakes.
There have been many days when I have wondered if I am being a good enough mother to them, and doubts have assailed me.
That was not one of those days and it will have a special place in my memory.