DonaMariaI thought I would update this entry from two years ago, about Dona Maria, our weekly maid. She has been a bright spot in our life here in Sao Paulo, and I’ve recommended her to many other Americans here, all of whom have hired her.

She retires in June, so we will be among her last clients. This will be a tremendous loss for the Consulate community, because she is vetted by the Consulate and, so, is easy to hire and–more than that–is supremely honest and trustworthy.

These last attributes are of incredible importance to her, and she almost lost the trust of the Consulate last year, when one of her clients, an officer at the Consulate, accused her of stealing. That’s all it took, an accusation, and she was denied her Consulate clearance.

We three other clients were notified by email about the accusation and how her clearance had been pulled, but were told we could continue with her if we wished. I immediately went into battle mode with one other client, determined to clear her name.

I spend all day Tuesday with Dona Maria. In the past three years, as my Portuguese has improved, we’ve gone from talking about the best vacuum cleaner to discussing more philosophical aspects of life. I KNOW her to be honest, faith-filled, and one of the most insightful women I’ve ever met. As I told her a few months ago, I look forward to the day when we’re sitting in heaven, our legs dangling over the edge of a cloud, discussing in perfectly understood dialogue all manners of topics. (As it is now, I’m sure I miss the subtleties of at least a third of her insights, and I’m sure I sound like a first-grader philosopher to her).

(I even asked her if she’d be willing to travel with us to our next post! She laughed and said, no, she is looking forward to spending time with her grandchildren, and traveling to Germany to visit her daughter. She has plans!)

What grated me most about the accusation was that the fellow who accused her had no personal interaction with her, but dealt with her only through his secretary. And he had no compunction about accusing her–and potentially taking away her livelihood of the past 25 years working with Americans.

Her other client and I got statements from the two remaining clients regarding her trustworthiness and countered the accusation, saying it was much more likely a young man who they had hired to work in their apartment (Dona Maria had been warned by the porteiros that he was a thief and to be wary of him) who had stolen the money and the shirt and then pointed the finger at her.

What most devastated Dona Maria was having to tell her husband and grown children that she had been accused and found guilty of theft, with no due process.

Long story a bit shorter, we got her name cleared. Though, the same department that had called her and accused her and told her she’d been found guilty never bothered to call her and tell her that her name had been cleared, that she’d been found not guilty, and that her clearance was reinstated (some four months later). However, we did finally get written notice to that effect, which I printed out for her on fine stationery.

She cried when she received the letter, and thanked me for fighting for her. There had been so much more than her work at risk; her entire soul had been pronounced guilty, and that was a small death for her. With the letter, she said she was reborn.

Sure, she’s “only” a maid, but how tragic and crippling that accusation had been! I know that there are maids here who are dishonest, who do take advantage of their employment to steal large and small items, but Dona Maria is the antithesis of those people.

This woman couldn’t steal. She is perhaps one of the most righteous people I have ever met.