The Help

by Tara Livesay on April 1, 2013

We stood in the driveway staring at the house we had rented in Port au Prince, “This looks like New York,” she declared. “My family will call me bourgeois living in a huge house like this.” She was correct in her observation, it was a very nice house; similar in size to every house we’ve ever owned or rented.

The disparities between our socio-economic realities are pointed out in similar ways on a weekly basis.

For five years Geronne has lived and worked with our family.

The tired statement “Most Haitians live on $1 a day” only serves to annoy me. I once worked for a mission that loved to remind its donors of that. I always wanted to scream, “BUT ONLY BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT YOU PAY!

Our family has taken that impossible-to-live-on amount and multiplied it by approximately ten. Even the math morons in the crowd know that only amounts to $300 per month. A low wage in our economy is a high wage in hers.

Our friend Geronne, a person we love, a person we do daily life with, is working a job with our family for a salary that is significantly more than all of her eight siblings are making out in the village. That should feel good, right?

She enjoys running water and electricity and meals and shelter in addition to her small salary. She jokes that she hates visiting her village home because she likes sleeping with the comfort of a fan. That should feel good, right?

Troubled by the fact that Geronne’s sister was raising Geronne’s daughter for her, we asked Geronne if her daughter Jenny might want to move into Port au Prince, too. Our culture imposed on hers, we wanted to see mother and daughter under the same roof. I want the same opportunities available for her daughter as I want for my own. Geronne’s salary increased when we agreed to pay for most of Jenny’s schooling. That should feel good, right?

With the money she is earning Geronne is building a house out in the village. Slowly but surely she adds the next piece and continues to plan for her future; for her daughter’s future.

Without Geronne’s help in our home we could not both work our “jobs”. The amount of laundry and cleaning necessary to run a household of our size is close to a 40 hour a week job. She helps with cleaning. She helps with kids. Occasionally she cooks the evening meal. She is the reason everything runs as well as it does. When something comes up that keeps us from coming home on time, Geronne steps in and handles caring for the kids. It is not an exaggeration to say that without her we would be rendered ineffective. We trust her. We love her.

She tells us she loves her job and is so glad to have met us in the village seven years ago. She tells us we are family. She is happy. We are happy. It all sounds so warm and fuzzy and fair and equitable. Right? Everybody wins, right?

For some reason, that is not exactly how it feels. Something about having ‘help’ in our house leaves me feeling off balance.

When Geronne started asking Jenny to help with things we put our foot down. “Geronne, we don’t want a fourteen year old working in our house” we said. Her reply disquieted our perceptions, “You want your children to know how to work. That is why you don’t want me to pick up their toys. I want my daughter to know too. She needs to learn how to run a household just like your children. I need her to learn by doing.”

When Geronne decided after three years of living together to start making coffee in the morning, we bristled a bit and said, “Please. Stop. We can make our own coffee!” Her reply, “I am awake earlier than you and I like to it. Please don’t tell me not to do something kind.”

My husband Troy is no Lord Grantham, and I’m certainly nothing like the Countess. So, why do we feel uneasy? Have we watched enough Downton Abbey to be troubled by the disparity between “upstairs” and “downstairs”? Is it because we are white and Geronne is brown and something in the history of our lineage bothers us? Is it because I can leave this island any day I choose – and she cannot? Is it because I cannot fully imagine being willing to do the work she does for room and board and $300 a month? What is it that makes it so uncomfortable?

I don’t have any desire to be filthy rich. I don’t yearn for flashy cars or fancy vacations. I don’t want or need everyone to have the same income level. That is not it at all. It has occurred to me that even if I could pay Geronne a U.S. salary, I’d still find the whole arrangement a bit unsettling.

As I’ve come to love Geronne I’ve realized that she doesn’t necessarily want what I have either. She is not silently seething about anything I have while she switches the fourth laundry load of the day. She would like her daughter to be educated, her simple country home to be built. When she gets ill she would like to have the cash flow to go visit a competent doctor. In her culture, gainful employment means a lot of pressure to share the money she makes with many others. Given the choice, she would probably prefer a lot less of that pressure.

I’ve recently decided that this dilemma, this uneasy feeling, is not one that can be solved. It will always feel odd to me to have someone doing my housework. It will always feel uneasy knowing how vastly different our economies are. I was born in Omaha, NE. She was born in La Digue, Haiti. I went to school and learned to read. She went to school then dropped out in fourth grade and did not learn to read until she was in her mid-thirties. I went to college. She doesn’t have anyone in her family that went to college. I don’t think $300 is very much money. She does.

I have decided that maybe it should make me uncomfortable. Maybe my discomfort keeps me in check. Maybe I am better suited to face each day here because I want to find ways to close the gaping distance between us.

What about you? Do you have household help? Is it easy or uncomfortable for you, and why?

~          ~          ~          ~

Tara Livesay  works in Port au Prince, Haiti with Heartline Ministries.

blog:  livesayhaiti.com  |  twitter (sharing with with her better half): @troylivesay

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About Tara Livesay

Tara and her family have lived in Haiti since 2006. She resides in Port au Prince, where she serves as a CPM (Midwife) with Heartline Ministries working in the areas of Maternal and Newborn Health. Tara is a the wife of Troy, the mother of seven children ranging in age from 25 to 7 years old. Tara enjoys running, laughing, sarcasm and spending time with her family. Troy and Tara consider Haiti, Minnesota, and Texas "home".
  • Loved this post. We live in Laos and have a wonderful maebaan (housekeeper) who helps keep us (particularly me) sane. I have come to love the fact that she will take my toddler for an hour here or there even more than the fact that I rarely do laundry here or wash a dish. I sincerely appreciate all these things and genuinely appreciate and love this woman who has helped us so much this last three years, but it’s not comfortable for me either. The disparity in life advantages and choice (and power) is always too apparent.

    • Maybe people of income levels and economies that grew up with someone “helping” don’t feel this tension??? I grew up middle class but never had anyone clean the house for us – not even once — so I see this as my work and it is odd to have another person doing what I still think I should do.

      • I did grow up with it though – half the time, anyway. I spent two years in Bangladesh and four in Zimbabwe as a child/teenager and we had help in both places (also, later in Indonesia and the Philippines). I also don’t have any of the “this is my work” feeling you mention (my husband would roll his eyes and nod his head at that one). So, for me, I think it has more to do with the simple disparity in privilege that makes me uncomfortable. I’m acutely aware of advantages I have and choices I can make that Oun doesn’t, and can’t. This sharpened even more after we both had babies around the same time, and sharpens even more every time one of our kids is sick.

        • no joke… one trip to the maternity where Safana’s babies were born vs the clinic where 2 of mine arrived – the disparity was enormous. and most western women would cringe seeing the clinic that i was privileged to use…

  • Lisa Mitchell

    Love this. I wrote about the discomfort and discord in a recent post as well here http://borderexpat.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-help-part-i.html (Borderexpat.blogspot.com) I think it is hard and good to have that disparity in your own home, in your face so to speak, so it can never be ignored and always be a relationship and not a statistic.

    • You are so right Lisa – it is a weird dance and there is very little that is comfortable about it. Thanks for your post — I am glad you pointed us to it.

  • Wow, Tara… We’re certainly thinking along the same lines. I’m scheduled to post soon and this is the exact same topic I was working on… even planning to title it “The Help!” I’m glad you beat me to it, though! Great post.

    I struggle with this greatly, on several levels. First, there will always be a part of me that resents, no matter how much I appreciate, love and respect the person, someone in my house, doing things that often have a more intimate nature for our family. That could be partly because I’m an introvert… and I hate this feeling that somehow my house is no different than a hotel.

    On the other hand, I’ve been here for 13 years – we’ve had full-time help for all but the last three years. For two of those years we had no help; this past year we rehired the amazing and beautiful woman who had always worked for our family, only this time on a part-time basis to supplement her other part-time job. I’d forgotten what it was like to breathe a sigh of relief. We’d gone the no help route this term because several of our churches had asked us not to – after all, house help is a sign of extravagance back in the States. And I discovered that I could do it, but it was hard, exhausting and I did have to limit many ministry opportunities.

    It was, however, also a good reminder because once you have house help, it is easy to slip into the mindset that that person can do all of the jobs I don’t like or don’t want or don’t feel like doing. I don’t feel like baking bread because it is nearly 100′ (F) in my kitchen without the oven… I’ll just ask Safana to do it and I’ll go work on writing reports and a prayer letter with the AC in the bedroom. Yes, I’m paying her a salary and she fully expects to do that… but for me, it requires a continual guarding of my heart and mind so that I don’t adopt a mindset headed down the same road as the benevolent/paternal folks from the southern States past history.

    She I love her… she’s a part of the family and a dear friend. We have great times working together in the kitchen and chatting about our children. She’s taught me much and I know she’s learned a lot from me. Her family feels welcome in our home and her husband used to tutor our children in French. I have opportunities to talk to her about faith issues (although she has no interest in laying aside her Muslim faith) – but I don’t think it will ever be easy or comfortable… I struggle with it every single day she is here.

    • Hi Richelle – I hope you still publish your post – I too struggle with making sure none of the members of this family get lazy and leave the jobs they hate for someone else to do. That’s not real life. (Well – unless you are Lord Grantham) — Sometimes when Geronne takes a period of time off it is quite eye opening for my kids to see how much she does for us. I fear I will raise entitled kids that don’t know how to do housework … we do well at pushing everyone to pitch in for a time — then we get busy and fail at it. I wish Geronne was less kind and would yell at us when she sees anyone being a lard. Not likely – ever.

      • This is a good point. My mom made sure that we all had chores. It was never a “Mai will clean up for you” We cleaned up for ourselves. At one point when a teenager I asked a young man who was helping us that summer to go get us butter for the table….Wow did I get in trouble! This served me well when my kids were younger and we were living in Cairo. They always had to make beds and clean up toys. I appreciate so much what Lisa says below – a relationship, not a statistic.

      • It is easier to teach/train kids in that respect when you only have part-time help – in our experience. We require our children to call our house helper by Madame… as she will only ever call me by Madame, even though I tried for several years to get her to change. Thankfully, they love to work with her and she seems to enjoy it as well. There’s generally a mandatory 30-45 minutes of all 10 of us cleaning every night before fun starts and everyone has a weekly turn at kitchen duty which includes prep and clean-up. In my experience and based on my observation, however, if parents are not intentional in teaching this sort of responsibility, most kids don’t just absorb it on their own.

  • I think this issue is difficult for most Americans living abroad.

    Part of the issue, for me, is struggling every day with the fact that I am rich. My whole life I have been lower middle class. Now, I know that on a world spectrum, I’m at the top. And that FEELS so wrong to me. I don’t feel wealthy because I never have been. Only, all along, I was, and I just didn’t know it.

    The other difficult thing for me is that the house helpers we have hired have all become so close to us. And in some way, it kind of feels like I am paying them to be my friends. I mean, I know that I am paying them to do a job. They are thankful for their jobs. Somewhere down the line, though, it becomes strange. Moumouni knows all about us. He knows when we are fighting. He knows what makes us excited. We have laughed and cried and grieved and celebrated together.

    The other thing I want to talk honestly about is the salary thing. We pay well, but not ten times the average. I have heard others complain that if you pay very well, you are causing a dependence on a salary that will not be attained again if you ever leave. I am torn my this.

    Recently the US Embassy began renting the house across the street from us. It is a little smaller than our house, with a much smaller yard. They are paying 4 times what we pay in rent. We are worried that our rent will go up and we will have to move.

    Does paying more to bless the community and the economy make it better or worse? I’m not sure I’ve got the answers on this one. I’d love to hear some of you chime in.

    Thank you Tara. I always love your brutal honesty and desire to be real. I am long time reader of your blog. We have begun to feel the call to work with single moms and babies here in Niger. I wish you and I could sit down for coffee.

    • I agree that putting her into a new economic level messes with things and causes its own issues. So troubled that no matter what there is some sort of negative side-effect somewhere. I think if I could still work at the Maternity Center and run my household that I would feel more comfortable without the help – but then of course, that is one less job in a country without many jobs. SIGH.

  • Doesn’t feel the least bit odd to me. Its called leveraging. The tricky part is the pay. I get what your saying, and I would never be comfortable with $1 a day, but we had help and were paying him significantly more. The problem is now that we’ve moved on, he can’t find anyone to match it. If he’d been making less, perhaps he would have been working on a side business or something. Then, of course, doing the right thing is always doing the right thing.

  • Missy Damon

    It’s kind of expected here in PNG that when you move into a house you’ll hire a hausmeri [house woman]. Their “unskilled labor” wages are set by the government and we are STRONGLY encouraged not to go over that amount. People who ignore the standards out of generosity really do throw everything out of balance. Word gets around that “So-and-so” is paying more and then pretty soon the “unskilled” laborers are getting as much as the “skilled” laborers. Then where’s the motivation to get training in some particular area?

    Right now hausmeris get about USD 1.25/hour and mine works about 8 hours a week. I’ve known “Meri” for six year, and I consider her a princess among women. She’s a single mom with 3 children and she supports her family by working for us and 2-3 other families. She also maintains a garden and sells extra produce at market.

    I home school my kids and “Meri” keeps my work load manageable. She cleans our house, washes and preps the fruits and veggies we buy and helps with laundry. On occasion I’ll leave my kids with her to run an errand, and she helps keep my language skills limber. I greatly appreciate her and her service to my family. I show my gratitude by baking cakes for her family celebrations, saving hand-me-down clothing for her kids or gifting her cooking oil, etc.

    The only part of this arrangement with “Meri” that makes me uncomfortable is that because she is in my employment, we can probably never be just friends. There are some other local women who have asked me many times to hire them, but I don’t simply because I want us to just stay friends.

    It’s tricky in this culture because healthy relationships are maintained by balanced giving and receiving. As long as both sides are sharing, the friendship can grow. The whole employer/employee relationship is still rather new to this culture and so often the employer becomes responsible for the employee (like a parent) whether they want to or not!

    “Meri” seems to understand (more than some) that we foreigners are uncomfortable with that kind of dependence. Maybe she is too, and that’s why she tries to balance the relationship by bringing us the best of her pineapples or making me a beautiful bilum [string bag].

  • Debbie

    Having a maid is quite expected here in South Africa where we live, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. We had to have someone come mow the yard and I felt guilty about it. As if it is not using our supporters money wisely. I know another missionary couple that have a maid and gardener. God has used this couple to minister to them and now they even have a bible study in their village at their home. I see both sides and have no problem with whatever one chooses. As for me, I’ll take care of our own home and my husband will mow the yard unless he just absolutely can’t.

    • We have supporters back in the States who do feel that house help is not a wise use of supporters money, and I really struggle with them making that call. For me, keeping the Sahara from moving in and taking over my house could, quite literally, be my full time job – and we’ve developed a higher tolerance to dust than most of my friends back home could deal with. Cooking from scratch, everything, 100% of the time (except we can run out and buy baguettes if we want to), washing and hanging everything, ironing most things, making dog food and cat food, etc., etc., etc.

      I’ve done both – had help as well as not had help – both ways I still had home and family ministry responsibilities, and frankly, I still prefer not having help, but it is physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausting. Yet for me, it is worth it. On the other hand, it isn’t just my decision. In our family of 10, I can’t do it all by myself and so that means a lot of pitching in from everyone else when we don’t have help. It means living with a little lower of a standard of cleanliness and ironing clothes right before you need them. Sometimes it means baguette with tomatoes and cukes for dinner…

      Just as you were so wise to point out – it IS an individual decision that each “unit” needs to make according to what best serves his/their needs and purposes.

      We should be accountable to our partners that are making these ministries possible by their prayer and financial support. At the same time, they should no more be trying to influence our personal decisions regarding house help (or other workers) than we should be asking them if they used money to go out to dinner or to the movie theater or took their family on a cruise instead of camping for vacation… I get very frustrated when I meet other international workers who are exhausted and unable to minister as their partners back home expect them to – partially because their partners back home also expect them to do so without engaging any outside help. Living internationally isn’t a one size fits all equation and what works back in our home countries will most likely be different than what works in our different places of service overseas.

      • Yes. That’s all I have to say. Great comment Richelle! I’ve got lots more thoughts too, but that’s all I can write for now.

      • Yes, and thanks for stating so clearly: “At the same time, they should no more be trying to influence our personal decisions regarding house help (or other workers) than we should be asking them if they used money to go out to dinner or to the movie theater or took their family on a cruise instead of camping for vacation… I get very frustrated when I meet other international workers who are exhausted and unable to minister as their partners back home expect them to – partially because their partners back home also expect them to do so without engaging any outside help. Living internationally isn’t a one size fits all equation”

      • Duane & Carin Guthrie

        Amen! I agree. Having “help” or not having “help” is a ministry opportunity, it can allow both people to minister outside the home instead of one, it can be cultural training and I don’t think it is our supporters business if we have help or not. Our supporters call from God, is to give to God’s work in the situation that we have been called to minister to. to partner with us, not to tell us what to do with the money. If they do not trust us to make informed, prayerful decisions perhaps they should put “their” money somewhere else. Sorry….I’ll get off my soap box….I have seen one too many missionaries leave because of complications in this area….

    • Hi Debbie –
      A post for another day for certain … but the using supporters money wisely thing is so tricky. Cheese is very expensive yet we occasionally buy it here … I decided not to feel guilty and I don’t think supporters want that. I have never considered that supporters wouldn’t be okay with hired help in the house. Do you think yours would be upset or is it more that you yourself would feel bad for even spending money that way?

  • I grew up with household “help” in Pakistan and then as an adult when we moved overseas had household “help”. I learned well from my mom….it was help not service. We worked together in the kitchen, together mating socks, together doing the cleaning. One time when my mom was criticized for having help in Pakistan she mildly made the statement to the woman criticizing “You have help too. You have a microwave. You have an electric washing machine. You have a dryer. You have instant food. You have an automatic cleaning oven. You have dry cleaning around the corner”…..the difference is that we could have relationships with our “help”. To this day I consider the woman who helped us in Cairo one of my good friends. When help is part of the local economy do we help or hurt by having “help”?

    • I can only assume that earning money versus being given handouts must feel so much better — most people want to earn and have that piece of dignity. So I guess I vote that a job in a jobless economy is a way to “help” — or something close.

    • Shari Tvrdik

      Thank you Marilyn! I love this! Your mom was a wise woman! Living in the slums of Mongolia, we desperately needed a helper but I truly did not realize how badly! In the months leading up to our arrival I strongly refused the idea. I had spent a lot of thought judging those missionaries who’s life seemed to improve once they arrived on the field. Thankfully, our director knew I was wrong. The day we showed up, so did our helper. I remember feeling frustrated, until she kindly showed our little girl how to use a squatty potty. It helped our daughter overcome one of her greatest fears! And that was all it took! We kept her! She taught me how to live without running water (a huge miracle). She taught me how to live in this culture and she doubled as my language teacher. With her presence at our home, we were accepted well by the community. They saw that we were willing to learn. Looking back, without our helper we would have never lasted as long as we have here. Now that we can manage well on our own we have hired her to work at the NGO. Still, I dearly miss her presence in my home as she became as a mother to me.

  • Liz K

    hummm, good thoughts! I am glad I am not alone in feeling uncomfortable in all of this! We had help two days a week during our year in language school and I hated it! I didn’t know how to be a boss, the maid decided she was really in charge and the whole family was on edge when she was around. Since language school, I have a local lady come a couple of times just to help with some major cleaning and I still don’t like it. It’s hard, for so many of the reasons you all mentioned. But I feel like I am at a breaking point, homeschooling, three little boys (6, 4 and 9 months) and then ministry stuff. I am not sure if we need to explore this option again. But then comes finding someone you trust, who works well with the family. I don’t know. I feel like we had such a bad first experience, we are a bit gun shy…

    • Hi Liz –
      When we first moved here I was not at all comfortable with the woman working in our house. Geronne is totally different and I am completely at ease. You are right, if it is not a good fit it can make living in your own house feel draining!

  • Joy

    Great post and hits the nail on so many things we expats deal with in this issue.

    Anyone care to talk about the salary point a little more? We try to pay an average wage, which would be more than locals pay locals, but way less than embassy-type people pay for househelp.

    I’m open to learning more and have had talks with other msy friends about wages over the years, trying to figure out the right amount. I/we don’t want to treat someone unjustly in the Lord’s eyes, or their own. What would be the reason for paying a wage much higher than the average wage? To help them because you can, and because their help means that much to you? I’d like to hear more thoughts on how others determined how much to pay their helpers.

    • The stat in Haiti about $1 a day is just a fund-raising tagline … people don’t actually survive (or thrive) on that. So that number can be tossed out completely. For real employers that are registered with the Haitian Gov’t there is a minimum wage of $5 per day. I am not a real registered employer of course but I also found $5 a day to be less than a liveable wage in Haiti. I basically decided that I should pay what feels generous while still taking the economy into consideration. (And also, because Geronne is highly trustworthy and I have literally zero problems or discomfort with her and we’ve learned enough about one another’s culture to actually feel at ease living together). So the salary is double the minimum wage. (She takes days off when she needs and the salary stays the same.) I hope it says to her that she is valuable … but quite honestly she is a bazillion times more valuable than $10 a day. This is a liveable wage, one she can slowly build her future with … does it upset the economy??? It might, I’m not sure. I don’t know if our supporters have an issue with it. If they do they’ve not spoken up about it. I also would enjoy knowing how folks abroad determine what they will pay someone that comes to help them in their home.

  • Stephanie smith

    I don’t live overseas and I’ve never had help other than a babysitter for a few hours but I was a nanny for several years so I kind of have the other side. While they did pay me well, they also provided meals and nice Christmas bonuses and birthday presents. What would it cost Geronne to rent a place a month and provide all her own food? Or pay for her daughters school? Really, in the “hired help” world of nannying, that is considered part of her wage. I lived in Chicago and had I also lived with the family instead of renting, I would have made the equivalent of $3500 a month.

    Not trying to ease the discomfort, just a thought from the other side.

    • Hi Stepanie –
      You’re right – the extras are part of the package making it more than the salary I listed. Geronne is so generous with us in return. She often buys and prepares a big meal and does it as a gift. I think we’ve built a mutually trusting relationship over the years and while we both trust one another there still looms the odd disparity in our economic status that just sort of messes with me. Thanks for the comment 🙂

  • Loved this. Discomfort is good. I recently wrote a two-parter called “The Help” on my blog here: http://borderexpat.blogspot.com/2013/01/the-help-part-i.html (www.borderexpact.blogspot.com).The relationship between the people who employ house help, and the women who care for our babies, fold our underwear and clean our bathrooms, is often an awkward dance between powerful and powerless, dependent and patron characterized by intimacy and companionship juxtaposed with obligation, need and in some cases friendship…The important thing is not to dehumanize anyone as “part of the economy” yet to understand context and culture. Thanks for writing!

  • Duane & Carin Guthrie

    I have a beautiful woman who comes in and helps once a week. She cleans our apartment from top to bottom, I LOVE her. When we first arrived she was the person I practiced my spanish with, she taught me certain Bolivian dishes, She loves my children. We had to move away three years ago and it hurt her financially, when we moved back to the same city after two years away we immediately re-hired her but we decided not to employ her the same amount of days as before because we never want to put her in that position again. We recommend her to everyone who is looking for help and we often pay her more than agreed upon, but we never want to put her out financially again because we do not know for how long we will live here. We have also helped pay for her to secure her official identification in her own country and helped pay a bit toward her own piece of property. Having someone clean in my house is a privilege I do not get in Canada, and it is a privelege here as well and one that I do not ever want to take advantage of. She is my friend, she is a child of God and she is worthy of my respect and love.

  • Lanaya

    I visited a mission family in Dominican Republic and was shocked to see they had “servants”. 🙂 But they explained to me that a “richer” family is expected to have help in order to provide jobs for the “poor.” It would have been worse for them to be independent and not provide for others by giving them a job.

  • mrs big topp

    I liked when you said;
    “I don’t have any desire to be filthy rich. I don’t yearn for flashy cars or fancy vacations. I don’t want or need everyone to have the same income level. That is not it at all. It has occurred to me that even if I could pay Geronne a U.S. salary, I’d still find the whole arrangement a bit unsettling.”
    Sometimes I want to say that the people here in South East Asia percieve me as rich – and that this makes me uncomfortable. But the reality is that I am rich! When compared to the top 1% of people in the world who live back in my home culture I may not be. But I actually am.
    I’ve never wanted to be rich and never saw myself this way… It often makes me want to change our situation to make myself feel better for hiring Bu Nur (our helper) even when it makes her uncomfortable.
    I liked your perspective. Thanks.

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  • Joy_F

    When I was in China I was uneasy as I was a single woman, by myself yet I couldn’t keep up with everything and work the full time job that I had come to do. I tried – I tried for a year and a half before I gave in. But then one of the others in the group pointed out what I didn’t see at the time – that in the US we have invisible servants that we don’t think twice about – and those invisible servants allow us to do things we can’t in other countries.

    Premixed, ready made, precut tomatoes, presliced bread and cheese, prewashed veggies in a precut container. It was all sitting in my refrigerator in the States, bought from the local grocery store and a sandwich took five minutes. No going to the market, bartering for vegetables washing them carefully with bleach water then de washing the bleach water off then slicing the vegetables. Bread often had to be sliced if I could find it all – if not, I’d have to make it. Meat wasn’t neatly packaged in the little sandwich containers. Cheese was a rare delicacy. Quick sandwich meals were not something I had the luxury of making.

    What we don’t see if in the US, some nameless person in a factory has done all that for us to make it easy for us to eat and run. Some nameless farmer grew the food. Some nameless workers sorted it. The nameless, faceless factory workers slice, mix and package it, making it easy for us to live “independently.”

    But is that truly independence? And who is ensuring that those invisible workers that make our lives possible are being paid a fair wage? I met some plastic packaging workers in China. They worked 12 hour days getting only one off a week. That’s just for packaging……

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