WEDNESDAY, MAY 12, 2010 2:23 PM, CDT
Right Choice #11
The rain poured down the next day as I woke to face a new day. One medicine kept my jangled nerves at bay; another dulled the ever-present nausea. Still another medicine made my pain seem irrelevant. As I walked all the way across the courtyard and ate half of a scrambled egg and some bites of toast, my hotel staff greeted me every step of the way. A door opened, an umbrella held over Jeff’s and my heads, a chair pulled out. Hunched over, leaning heavily on Jeff’s arm, each step took an effort. The effort was rewarded, though, by the smiles offered up by the now familiar wait staff and short order breakfast cooks, the front desk staff and the housekeepers scattered around my first floor habitat.
Unfortunately, the compassion and familiarity of the hotel staff wasn’t enough to offset the fact that the hotel’s walls were closing ever nearer to my soul. Each day waking to the same routine, the same four walls, the same medical status took a toll on my emotions. The grip of the panic attack had yet to fully subside, yet four days remained before the doctors would allow me to fly home.
Dr. Jossefson arrived to take out my stitches. He suggested that perhaps a change of scenery might do some good. The transfer to another hotel would be difficult, but worth it for my health, he felt. One hour away there was a national park. It would offer a peaceful setting, fresh air, and, if I was up to it, a peek at the side of South Africa that covered each of the famous postcards – wild animals. My healing was on track, and as long as I continued to rest, I could just as well rest in beautiful surroundings.
Jeff contacted Johan to see what accommodation he could recommend out in the national park. There were two that he had used for business retreats, both beautiful and restful. One would provide a better chance for me to see Africa’s wild animals right from my room, though. The Bakubung (Meaning, “The People of the Hippo”) was built around a watering hole, so animals would wander up close to the hotel’s perimeter. We could likely sit on our hotel porch and glimpse these animals in the wild. If I felt up to it, a drive into the national park was two minutes from the hotel’s front door. I could rest up for a day, prepare myself with medicines to make the drive tolerable and we could be in South Africa’s wild preserve tomorrow evening. The plan gave me strength.
Jeff made car rental arrangements, picked up medicines for my transfer to the park and for my airplane journey home, and set up our arrangements at the hotel. I meanwhile set about saying my thank yous and good-byes to the special individuals at the Protea Hotel Waterfront Centurion. I wanted the hotel’s management to understand what a marvelous team of individuals they had working at the hotel. I hoped these special individuals, these wonderful souls who had looked out for my safety and comfort, who anticipated my needs before I recognized them myself, who rushed to my room at my slightest concern, were acknowledged and rewarded. I wrote a lengthy note to the management thanking staff members by name.
I also wrote personal thank yous to Kmodoto and to Nancy, and I placed a special tip in their envelopes. I hoped that the money would let them know how much their care had meant, and I hoped the money would come in handy.
After reading the note I wrote to her, Nancy came to give me a farewell hug. The tip money that seemed so insignificant to me when compared to the commitment Nancy had made when finding me a bathing tub, bringing me a refrigerator and sitting beside me to keep me company would provide school books for her daughter, she said. She could go to the doctor now to have an untreated ailment addressed. Such a small amount of money, and yet such a big difference made to the life of a woman my age that spent her days on her hands and knees, washing the tile floors of hotel bathrooms.
Kmodoto’s farewell story touched me as well. During our good-byes, Kmodoto shared with me just a bit of her story. She was an orphan; her parents had died when she was young. Raised with her four siblings in a small, crowded slum dwelling by her grandparents, Kmodoto had dropped out of school at the age of 14 to get a job and help provide for her family. Now 22 this beautiful, professionally kept woman was proud that she had started out as a young teen as a kitchen assistant. Years later she was advanced to wait staff in the restaurant. Only two months earlier she had been made a member of the front desk staff. Her ability to delight guests must have been noticed by hotel management. She has a talent for knowing what needs to be done and how to get it done, and it seemed the hotel noticed this and rewarded her efforts with increasing opportunity.
She told me that she needed to think about how she would spend the money I gave her. She would do something special with it, she assured me. Perhaps use it to figure out how to finish her schooling, or purchase something meaningful that would remind her of the connection we shared. I was touched by her openness in sharing her story, and the thought she was giving to the $100 I had provided in gratitude. If I had known what a difference this money would make to these extraordinary women, I would have chosen to give more.