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Monday, February 12, 2007


Death briefly but profoundly touched me today.

I was alone in the office when I heard someone calling at the locked security gate. I was furious on the spot; how dare they disturb me like this! A lot of people come knocking here and they all have a very sad story to tell; all they ever want is money. In this negative frame of mind I went to the gate. Outside was a teenage girl and a woman who was looking very ill. The girl asked me for a glass of water.

"It's so that my mother can take her pills. We've just come from the hospital," she said. "It's so far and there's no water anywhere. My mother has HIV." Both of them looked tired and dusty. They must have been walking for quite some distance.

Feeling terrible for having been so selfish, I went to fetch the glass of water they wanted, filling the glass directly from the kitchen tap. I handed it to the sick woman through the still-locked gate. Our gazes locked. I saw sadness there, and despair. Her hand brushed mine as she took the water. I felt her death flowing though me; coldness crept into me and my vision grew foggy. Suddenly, she looked away and seemed embarrassed at the intimate connection. She drank some of the water and gave the rest to her daughter. It looked like they were in a hurry to leave. I asked them if they wanted more water, but they refused.

As they walked away, I felt very guilty for not having given them ice water.

How caught up I have become in my own little world! How important my own comfort seems to me!

I feel sure that the woman has since died.

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