Dedicated to those young Papua New Guinea men who will leave their homes, tough it out with friends and relatives as they hunt for a job. May you have experiences that will warm your soul and give you encouragement to succeed
MADANG - It was a beautiful day. Remember the benches under the marmar trees that lined the road? Remember sitting and looking at the greenish sugar fields and the blue mountains away in the distance, the white clouds building up around them.
Serene, almost dreamlike, as in a painting. Yes, the small township of Ramu Sugar. Gusap Downs, as it is officially known.
Well on one of those benches in the cool shade of the marmar trees sat the young man. His head bowed low, he couldn’t see the blue of the mountains nor the green of the grass for tears blurred his eyes and anguish and self-pity filled his heart.
Added to the emotional hurt was the hunger. He hadn’t eaten since yesterday, something that never happened back home. His head bowed even lower.
It has been a long time since he’d been to church or said a prayer. But today life had knocked him down with utter hopelessness and he needed to pray.
“Heavenly father, I’m sorry I have forgotten you,” he said from deep within his soul.
“In my happiness, I have forsaken you. I have never thanked you for everything. But here you see I have been reduced to nothing. Look deep within my soul and see my fears, my guilt, my worries.
“Lord, you know I desperately need a job. I need money right now. I am so overwhelmed with hunger, Lord, I pray for a 20 toea, just 20 toea to get some ripe bananas.”
The petition for 20 toea was too much for his weary soul and fresh tears welled in his eyes as he tearfully whispered, Amen.
It was more than two years since he graduated with an arts degree and more than two years since he’d been looking for a job that was never there.
He felt like a liability. His family had spent so much money on him, he was their pride. The first to earn a degree that now seemed worthless.
His siblings needed money for school fees and he couldn’t help. His family still sent him money. There seemed no light at the end of the tunnel.
So engrossed in his thoughts, he never saw the stranger approach him, only aware of the presence when the stranger sat beside him.
He looked into a buai stained mouth and smiling eyes. The stranger was in torn and dirty jeans and the faded grey shirt had seen better days. Placing a small red shopping bag next to him and pointing at its peanuts, bananas and a cucumber, the stranger said, “Em yah bata stret kaikai, yumi sharim liklik kaikai yah”. [Now brother, I’ll share my food with you.]
The young man was taken aback by the stranger’s generosity and was at first reluctant. The stranger took out the bunch of bananas and shared it equally between them. As they ate, the stranger began telling the young man about himself.
He was from the hinterland of Karkar island and trying to build a house, but as he could not afford the nails and roofing iron he decided to look for a job at the oil palm blocks.
He’d become a wheelbarrow man, pushing it around to collect the fruit that had fallen on the ground. Today he’d taken a day off to go the hospital with a wood splinter in his foot.
The stranger chattered on and the young man’s heart filled with pity, sadness - and anger. Here was a simple person with no education but he had his life well planned, he knew what he wanted and how to get it. He was content with his life.
And me, the young man thought, I’ve spent four years and K30,000 to get a degree which can’t get me a job. I don’t know where I’m going. I’m lost.
The stranger took the cucumber from the bag and halved it, took the Maggi cube and halved it and shared them, then took a small knife from his bilum and cut open the coconut, which they also shared.
The stranger then asked the young man, “Na bata yu?” [And you?] and the young man replied sadly, “Bata mi lusim peles lo Wewak na kam painim wok yah, mi stap wantain ol family. Nau yet mi no painim wok yet” [I left my home in Wewak to find work, stayed with my family but didn’t find work].
To which the stranger replied encouragingly, “Noken wari igat wok blo yu ba painim yu yet.” [Don’t worry, you’re work will find you]
Then the stranger looked up and said, “Bata blo mi, PMV blo go bek lo haus laik out nau, mi bai lusim yu”. [My brother’s PMV is going home, I’ll have to leave you now]
The stranger stood and, just before he left, slipped the young man a two kina note. Without waiting for a thank you, he smiled, slapped the young man on the shoulder and was on his way.
The gesture was too much for the young man, who was speechless as tears streamed down his cheeks.
The stranger got on the PMV which drove away. The young man closed his eyes. “Thank you Lord, you have truly not forsaken me, I have just seen you answered my prayers, I was hungry and you sent a stranger to me with food and he blessed me with money.
“Lord bless that stranger so that he may he have enough money to build his house. Lord, not only have you fed me physically but in my heart. This gesture is like a rainbow after rain, it has given me hope to believe and face tomorrow. Amen.”
His stomach was full, his heart too. A small act of kindness had miraculously made him feel happy. He thought to himself, “Well good things are on their way”, as he walked back to his uncles’ house with the two kina safe in his pocket.
The senior project coordinator of a big US funded disaster risk reduction program replied to a couple of emails about targets then spoke to his colleague about an upcoming meeting with the team leaders as he left for a late lunch.
On his way past reception, he saw a young man. There was something about how the young man was standing that caught the coordinator’s attention.
The young man had a yellow envelope in his hand and looked around uncertainly as if trying to gather courage to speak to the receptionist.
The coordinator knew that look well. It reminded him of his younger self.
He approached the young man and asked kindly, “He brat yu orait ah?” [How’re you going?] to which the young man gave an embarrassed smile and said, “Sorry mi kam lo lusim leta of interest blo me lo painim wok yah” [Sorry, I’ve come to leave my letter about finding a job].
“Come, let me assist you,” said the coordinator, taking the letter and handing it to the receptionist before explaining the process the letter would go through.
The young man thanked him politely and left.
“Hey, bata wait!” The coordinator caught up to the young man. Just one look at his face brought back all his own struggles and experiences.
“Bata noken give up, igat wok blo yu bai painim yu yet” [Brother, don’t give up, you’ll find a job], taking out a K100 note from his pocket and giving it to the young man.
As the senior project coordinator walked on he said to himself: “Lord I thank you for this job I have. Thank you for that time three years ago when I was looking for a job and hungry and you fed me. Lord, since I can’t thank that stranger, today I helped another young man. Please Lord give him to courage to wait out this storm. Amen”.
That afternoon the young man got on his knees with tears in his eyes and thanked the Lord for the strangers he had met that day. From deep within his heart he prayed and knew God had plans for him.