Last Friday I took Nkosi for a run and on my way home, I swung by the office to pick up a sandwich and snack I had left in the fridge there. Didn’t want them to sit in the office all weekend. As I made my way down Queens in the failing light of another beautiful African dusk, I jogged up behind two young boys, trotting along in barefeet and tattered clothing. Running home from town. They did a double-take when I came up behind them with a dog on a leash. Zimbabweans are terrified of dogs, with no exceptions that I know of. These two boys jumped into the elephant grass on either side of the path to avoid being eaten, but I slowed and told Nkosi to sit. Again, they were amazed that a dog would listen to me and not attack them. Five minutes later, the younger of the two boys had taken the leash from me, the older was holding my hand, and the four of us walked along leisurely. I had greeted them in Ndebele and quickly learned that their English was very poor. They carried a plastic bag and nothing else and their clothes hung off them. Both were extremely skinny. They probably can’t afford school fees. I managed to ascertain that the older was eleven, the younger one nine. They were much too short for their ages. I might have guessed six and nine. Clearly their nutrition at home is insufficient.
As we walked along, content to giggle whenever Nkosi turned and tried to sniff them, I found myself wishing I had my wallet on me. I would have handed them some cash to take home to their mother. I didn’t even have pockets, out for a jog, carrying nothing but my keys…and two Tupperwares of food. I could have smacked myself in the face. I opened the first container and ripped my peanut butter and jelly sandwich in half, handing one to each of the boys. Then I took the carrots out of the other one, along with a small Jif to-go peanut butter container and handed those to the boys. My aunt had come home from a shopping trip with four cases of portable peanut butter containers after I told her how much I survived on peanut butter and how often we’re on the road for soccer games. Good thinking! The boys went home with a little more nourishment and a new appreciation for dogs. I went home wishing I could give them much more than a sandwich and a few carrots, but even though I’d looked forward to a post-run sandwich, carrying empty Tupperware never felt better.