Culture and Compassion

On Thursday last week, my husband drove me to our primary care physician and I got the diagnosis and some medicine: I have the flu. Earlier in the week, I had begun my fight against what I thought was a common cold, as I wondered why the extra vitamin supplements I had been taking were not upholding my immunity.

However, when I considered recent on-the-job-stress, the departure of several attorneys and the attendant staff lay-offs to preserve the firm's bottom line, I attributed my debilitated immune system to the pain shared for coworker friends and their new plight, job-hunting in a tough economy.

I am recovering in the three days since I started the meds, thankfully and rightfully, considering the cost of the Tamiflu alone, $75.00 for ten capsules! But, according to a kind notification in my Personal Prescription Booklet, my insurance saved me $38.99. I am thankful for employment and for medical insurance.

I am also thankful for the small amount of energy I have today, to sit up and write this short post. I have been thinking about my worry early in the week, when despite rigorously downed cups of lemon, ginger and honey tea, and boosts of vitamin C; I continued to feel under the weather. My husband’s encouraging pat on the back, “that’s right, my dear, nip that cold in the bud like I do,” did little to ease the nagging concern: if I get sick and become bed-ridden, my husband and children will have to take care of me. I did not want to put them in that position.

I have been thinking about women, specifically African wives and mothers in the Diaspora, who might dread getting sick because of a concern of the unknown.

Will someone catch them when they fall? Will they experience the pleasant surprise of a spouse who will go the extra mile, pamper them when they are sick?

I suppose if we lived back home, in Kenya or in Nigeria, or somewhere on the continent, my husband might do one or two things to nurse me back to health, and leave the majority of the care in the hands of a daughter, or a female member of the household to handle. That would be the expected cultural practice.

I wonder, given the same situation in the United States, with a daughter born and raised here, if the roles might reverse, with the African daughter believing that the responsibility of care rests primarily on the father, the husband. I cannot answer that question this time, because our daughter lives in New York and so, by default, hubby has to care for and pamper me.

And I am fortunate to have a loving extended family, comprised of close women friends from Gambia, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Ghana, to mention just a few. Women friends who will cook healing soups and deliver them to the house; who will prepare special healing balms, made from the sap the baobab tree (from Gambia). Women friends who will deliver special instructions to my husband:

“As soon as she comes out of the bath, make sure you give her a good rub down, all over her back, her front, behind her ears, on the bottom of her feet. And don’t think of anything else when you are done, cover her up and let her rest!”

Our mothers will be proud that after all these years living in America, we continue with cultural practices they grounded in us; our caring for one another. And I am thankful.

Have a good week.

Mingi Love,
Mama Shujaa.


  1. I wish you a speedy recovery. As for husbands pampering their wves, what a timely post yours is! Last night we sat to watch a BBC programme called 'Human Planet' and this one in particular focused on people living in jungles around the world. There was a tribe in Papua New Guine where the man climbed up more than a hundred feet to get some honey for his wife and tribe. To see the guy going up on just a flimsy rope was dizzying, to say the least. It was evidence that some of us will go to great lenghts to please our other halves. I'm glad your husband is chipping in in your recovery.

    Greetings from London.

  2. Get well soon. Husbands pampering wives in the United States, not quite the culture here. Although, I wish it were. It should be the husbands responsibility to care for his wife when she's ill, just as it's her responsibility to care for him when roles are reversed.

    Love this post.


  3. Thank you all for your comments and well wishes. I am on the road to recovery and my husband is doing everything right. :-)

    ACIL, Thank you for that wonderful tidbit on Papua New Guinea. How sweet. So good to hear of such examples.

  4. Poor you! The flu is miserable. After having it a couple of times, I now get a flu shot, although not all strains of flu are covered. It's good to hear that your husband is taking care of you. Every time I get sick, which isn't very often luckily, everyone else is sick.

    My daughter would be shocked over the idea of looking after a sick mom, but recently when I got a toe cramp while skiing, she was very helpful.

    I do hope you feel better soon!

  5. Im happy im in Kenya Kshs 600, for a single tab, thats dear and its flue...wising you a kwik recovery,buheri wa afya


  6. Hi Mama Shujaa - pole sana about having the flu - hope you are on the way to a full recovery. Top marks to your caring husband and its great how friends and neighbours rally round - I have seen several examples of that spirit and I guess it can be a very humbling experience. Get well soon.

  7. Wishing you a quick recovery Mama Shujaa. We need you back in optimum health.

  8. Thank you Sarah, Collins, Woolie and Shiko for your comments and messages.

    Sarah, thanks for checking up on me. Yes, I am better. It took a while for me to regain my strength, though. I don't think I've ever had the flu like this, it was miserable indeed!


    - Judy


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Swallow Me

See the World, No Visa Required