(Continued from prior post…)
For nearly two years after the genocide, medical diagnosis was unclear or unavailable and Jean Pierre remained an invalid at his Aunt’s house. Finally, a doctor at one of the government hospitals decided to operate and removed an ulcer. This procedure went a long way to affording Jean Pierre a full recovery.
A naturally hard worker, now with a healthy body, Jean Pierre was able to take a job as a security guard with one of the large private security companies in Kigali. In 1996, Jean Pierre was married and over time became the proud father of 4 children. Although KK Security did not treat employees well (often paying a fraction of what was owed), Jean Pierre did not feel he could leave because he had a family to support and finding another job was unlikely. Jean Pierre was still with KK Security 13 years later when I met him, last summer. Because of the treatment of his previous employers, it was not difficult for me to pay him better and entice him to leave the company that would otherwise claim half the fees I paid for security services. When I asked Jean Pierre what he really wanted to do, he told me he would do anything, but loved gardening. Thus, I was able to give him the title of Chief Gardener and a uniform more to his liking as well. Jean Pierre tells me that this is the only job he’s had that has paid him regularly since he left the Akagera Hotel. You should have seen the look on his face when I got to tell him he would receive a raise after a year of great service to our family!
To share his story certainly takes some vulnerability and risk. As such, I felt I should reciprocate and tell him my own. You can probably imagine how odd that felt! So much of his life has largely been dictated for him…. by others, by circumstance and by poverty. As I began telling my story, I realized how many resources and choices I have had (and often took for granted). I told him that I too scored well in primary school, but I was able to progress to middle school and eventually go to university and choose to study business, and even had the luxury of choosing a field and company I wanted to work in when I graduated. I complained about the one hour commute I had to drive twice a day when living in Los Angeles, but felt silly complaining since I never faced the jaws of a lion as he had on his commute as a boy! I told him I loved working hard and he said he did as well (and it shows!). He was amazed that I would leave a job that had the potential for riches American companies like Microsoft had offered. Although not a believer, he somehow understood that my faith compelled me to chart a different path.
By the time I had finished my story and answered his questions, we both sat with a deep appreciation at the life the other had lived. Although roughly the same age, being born in such different contexts made it quite amazing that two such people could ever find themselves friends.
Onward and Upward,