I felt the urge to share this experience that rocked me to the core.
On arrival to Jakarta we hired our personal household staff but hubby’s office handled the hiring of our security guards. Given my personal distance from that hiring process and the fact that I did not expect to interact much with these men I mentally compartmentalized them as not truly staff.
Fast forward a few weeks and I realized that our youngest daughter was spending a lot of time with her nanny and the guards in our garage. As a mother I decided to seriously look into what was so compelling to cause her to spend hours on end away from the things that normally held her attention. Low and behold I discovered that not only did the guards play football with her but they had become versed in Uno, Monopoly, Loodu and Scrabble. Keep in mind that their English is as good as my baking (I cannot bake to save my life). In addition, they watched and listened to music videos and allowed our daughter to teach them Jamaican dance moves which they readily performed daily: it was great.
Fast forward again to 2 weeks ago when one particular guard (the best dancer of the group) did not turn up for work for a few days. Keep in mind that these guys are not from you know where (that country that starts with J and has the best mangoes in the world) so they do not easily miss work. I asked and was told that he had been hospitalized with stomach problems. Hubby and I were concerned as medical attention for locals is as much a hit or miss as is my mom’s chance of cooking beef without burning or nearly burning it. We were however not overly worried until today when I drove through our gate and noticed a man standing in our yard. I asked our driver if he knew the person; thinking that once again the landlord had sent someone to do work without telling us. I was mentally preparing to call his office and complain when the driver said, “Mrs, its Pak ______”. I couldn’t believe it: the man standing in my yard was at least 50lbs smaller than the Pak______ I knew. This was a mere shell of the man I had come to know.
I quickly went and shook his hand while exchanging a few words. Fighting back tears I ran inside feeling sad as I watched him struggle to breathe, stand and speak. I yelled for hubby to come downstairs and went back outside to invite Pak _______ to take a seat at our dining room table. He sat, we asked about his sons and his wife (who is unemployed); we learned that he was no longer with the security company since he became ill. To this we pointed out that as soon as he was better we would ask for him to be reinstated. We spoke about how he was feeling and we watched the tears reach the brim of his eyes several times in the conversation.
The entire time we sat with him I felt an ache in the pit of my stomach as my brain raced to figure out a way to help. This was made worse by his incessant need to tell us how sorry he was that he left us without one of our guards when he became sick. No matter how many times we told him that there was nothing for him to be sorry about he kept saying it. It was unbelievable that he could feel the need to apologize for something over which he had no control. Something that needed no apology. The heart of the man was big, his soul was warm and he showed kindness where none was needed or expected: he brought beautifully wrapped gifts for the girls. I could not believe it!!!!! I had no idea how this man’s family was eating or paying any bills and here he comes with gifts for our children? The ache in me got even bigger.
My mind was racing while I tried to control myself: could I take him to our doctor just to make sure he would be fine? The answer was no. It is illegal in Indonesia for foreign doctors to treat Indonesians unless they are married to a foreigner. As Pak_________ left our home, hubby jumped on his phone to see if there was any way that our doctor could see our guard and there was none. Absolutely none!!!!! At this point I could hold it no longer and the flood gates opened. I just sat and bawled like a baby, said a silent prayer and allowed my sense of helplessness to overwhelm me. I understand the reasoning behind the government’s policy but rubbish it at this point when a man’s life hangs in the balance.
As I write this blog I ask myself what am I going to do if in a week he doesn’t seem to be improving. I can continue to give money but as I handed him that token today I saw in his eyes that what he truly wanted was his former “life”. With that I say, please God, Allah, Buddha, Haile Selassie and other gods, save Pak _____and give me the answer to this question: when is it ok to break the law?