Goodness Knows: Part 1

many hands in a circle around candles

Written by Cheryl Behrent

This story begins a series about the diverse experiences of Sarah’s residents.

Today, we share a story about a woman we will call, to protect her safety and dignity, Goodness. This seems an appropriate name considering the horrors she has endured and any goodness that could come from helping her find a new life. A feature of Goodness’ life is highlighted in her life in Africa, arrival to the United States, and life at Sarah’s. Goodness needed to report her story to support her immigration case but, unable to read or write, I helped her write the affidavit often asking, “Do I understand correctly?” or “What do you mean by that?” Goodness was born to an extremely poor family in an African village. “We had nothing,” recalls Goodness. Her family could not afford to buy food so usually they were starving. Enduring starvation, bodies stop regulating temperature, then kidney failure, and eventually death. Goodness found her parents dead when she was only 15 years old. She described how none of the children had anything: no clothing, no shoes, no food. Goodness had bare feet until she was 16. My own teens came into self-awareness about being judged by other kids as different long before they were 16. As privileged people we worried more about fashion, affordability, or that they grew, and their pants stopped covering their ankles. But they had clothes and they had shoes. In Goodness’ village, without shoes, she and her family were exposed to harmful stuff in the water, air, and soil. Goodness explained, “We had no house. We constructed sleeping places from thatch and bamboo under bushes.” She explained that “My parents passed away because of poverty” keeps echoing in my thoughts. As a parent myself I know the sacrifices I’m willing to make for my children. I imagine the reason Goodness survived is because her parents gave her their food and sheltered her with their bodies.