The last egg

There is a reason they refer to Malawi as the Warm Heart of Africa. Malawians are some of the most genuine, friendly, welcoming, generous people I have ever met. From the first day of my first visit it became a second home for me.

I visited a single mom in a village in northern Malawi. She is a farmer and takes care of her 5 children and her mother. Malawian culture is to make every visit to a home memorable and inviting. This was the first time I had been invited into a families home. I felt awkward about just showing up, so we filled the car with food and supplies to take with us. In this remote village, very little English is spoken. I am always thankful to have a Malawian friend with me to translate and explain etiquette along the way.

During this visit I experienced a truly life changing moment. The Malawian way when guests arrive is to feed them. While I was visiting and touring the farm, a meal was being prepared for me. We were visiting during the end of the rainy season, which means food supplies are extremely limited. It is a time when most village children go days without food. The meal that was prepared was nsima, (a Malawi staple), pumpkin leaves and an egg. There were 5 adults and 3 children, and yes, only one egg. I was told I had to eat the egg. It would be extremely offensive to the family and the village if I refused to eat it. It was one of the most difficult and incredibly life altering moments for me. In response to my refusal, and requests for the children to eat the egg, the backstory was explained to me by my friend.

This family was aware I was coming. They new they would need to feed me. They wanted to make sure I had the best of what they had. At this difficult time of year, they didn’t have any more chickens and sent the children to ask the villagers if they had a chicken or an egg to donate to their family to feed a visitor. One family had 1 chicken and 1 egg left. They chose to donate the egg. The last egg from the last chicken in the whole village.

Imagine for a moment having 3 very young children sitting on the concrete floor of their 2 room house, hungry, and watching the last egg be served to the visitor. I didn’t know what the right choice was. It has haunted me ever since. I might not ever know what I should have done. But the memory will never leave me.

Have you ever wrestled with determining the better ‘right’ choice?

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