My maid’s tragedy made me see the light

Where you don’t expect to find your toothbrush: with your makeup. (Photo by Sheikha AlTenaiji)

Where you don’t expect to find your toothbrush: With your makeup. (Photo by Sheikha AlTenaiji)

By Sheikha AlTenaiji

ABU DHABI—It was a day I will never forget.

The day was 6 November 2015. What happened that day made me feel as if I was blessed—and yet I also felt very guilty.

Up until that day, I had been living an everyday routine. I went to university, ate lunch, slept, did my assignments, went out for dinner and came back home to sleep. The most important thing I have to do after every meal is brush my teeth. I always make sure that my teeth are clean and white, and that the brush is clean before placing it in the cup next to the sink.

My maid, Mary, who is Ethiopian, was responsible for cleaning my room and bathroom. I have struggled with her at times. I dislike how she often replaces the items in my room in different places where it was hard for me to find them later on.

And what makes me angry sometimes is that she always places my toothbrush inside my makeup bag, so I repeatedly have to get a new toothbrush.

The first time it happened, I was really calm and thought she might accidentally have misplaced my toothbrush. Then she kept on doing the same mistake over and over. This made me really angry, so I shouted at her because it was my 10th toothbrush.

Of course, she became really sad when I shouted at her and went to her room crying. I felt I had no choice but to shout at her because I had been so patient with her up to that point.

On 6 November 2015, my parents received a phone call from the cleaning company office asking us to send our maid back home to Ethiopia because members of her family had been involved in a fatal automobile accident. Her father and 7-year-old son had died, and her daughter had been placed in intensive care at hospital.

As soon as my parents heard this news, they booked a plane ticket for her for the next day. Of course, I didn’t know anything about it until my mother went to the maid’s room and told her to pack because she would be leaving that night.

We didn’t tell her the reason because we wanted her to find out when she arrived back home in her country. She started crying and asked my mother, “Why are you sending me, because I didn’t do my job well? Did I do something wrong?”

This is where I felt really emotional, seeing her tears. She insisted on talking to the maids’ office, and when she talked to them, they only told her about her father’s death. This shocked her, so she started screaming. She lay on the floor and started shaking her head and more tears were dropping. My mother hugged her and tried to calm her, but nothing could make her stop screaming and crying. She packed her stuff and told us that she would return after her trip home to Ethiopia.

I haven’t seen her since then.

After that, I felt ashamed for shouting at her over my toothbrush. I felt really guilty because she had left her family and her small kids to come and work far away in another country where she knows absolutely no one. She did not see her family for years to gain little money to try to give her family a better life. Then she lives in a house where the family lives happily together. Now she had lost close members of her family.

Thinking about all of this, I felt very guilty for shouting at her. That November day was the day that changed me. I began to appreciate all of the good things I have in my life. I am so blessed. I should never take that for granted.


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2 Responses to My maid’s tragedy made me see the light

  1. Fatma says:

    It is a very interesting topic!! I actually enjoyed reading it all.
    Great job of luck

  2. Noora says:


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