Archive for ‘Orphans’

March 4, 2011

The Blessed Ones: A Response to The Boy and The Bottlecap

A Guest Post From My Good Friend, @RadicalMommas:

Though she tried to leave this beautiful post as a comment on The Boy and The Bottlecap, it was too beautiful and too profound to leave it there.  It is now in its rightful place on the blog but left as it was which is why it sounds like a comment. 🙂

Great post, Lily.  I have so many thoughts about this, and I have debated which to share here because some might come across wrong, but each make of them what they will, and God knows best.

My husband was orphaned, more or less, in Senegal at age 6.  His mother died giving birth to one of his baby sisters, and although he was still raised by his “aunt” he has experienced 52 wise years or growing in the midst of conditions of poverty.  His perspective has really shaped my views in many ways and below I share one of our many (for me) life changing conversations.  Our belief in God, as you know, also has because what we know to be true is that, even those suffering the greatest amongst us are cared for by God, since this life is brief after all, and God knows that it is our greatest sufferings that make us closest to him, so God will challenge us more each year of our life if we progress toward him.  Every great prophet throughout history has has no shortage of tremendous hardships.  But, as brothers and sisters, we each have an obligation to always strive to make the life better for one another.

In Senegal, the Talibe (orphan boys) are numerous.  You can’t take a 10 minute walk down the road without passing by hundreds of them, many holding out their single can that they carry to collect coins, and foods scraps for their meals.

So, I always think about this one day my husband and I were in the city together.  I was pregnant and particularly emotional watching these boys this day.  My husband said, “why are you wasting tears for these boys?  You should be strong for them and for us all.”  I told him, so many of them are suffering, they are small and skinny, and many will never have a single book to read.  He told me, “you are being stupid and naive.  They are the blessed ones.  Look down at them.  They have nothing to hold but that can which they use for washing, for eating, and for collecting their coins.  And some of them will endure beatings or heavy illness.  But you see there…look at those boys…they are laughing and loving each other, too.  And, they came closer to God faster than many other people because God challenges those who are ready sooner than some others expect they are ready [because they are children] and in ways some people think no person should be challenged.  But, he said, you think of Serin Touba [a Sufi saint of Senegal, highly revered by the Senegalese and many others in the world].  He was sent three times to exile and beaten, and left to starve, and they tried these things in attempt to force him to disbelieve in his religion, but he would not falter, and neither are these boys.  You see, at every time of prayer, they are the quickest to prostrate before our creator and give thanks for the most humble, basic life they were given.  Don’t be sorry for them, just love them and that is all.  They are not sorry for themselves.  They are not shedding tears for each other.  They are just loving the hard life they were given and spreading peace amongst themselves.  The whole world can learn from that.  At the end of the day, this life is almost over for all of us.  We are just a tiny blink of time in this body, nothing compared to the grand life the awaits us if we stay close to our God throughout the toughest of times.  These boys might live a short life, and
that was enough for them, or God may have a plan for them that takes them longer to complete, and either way, we are living for the hereafter, so it is no matter.  Every person here [in my country] is prepared to share enough for these boys if they walk to our door even if it is their only scrap of food they have to share, so if it is meant for these boys, even they will eat today.  And if not, they will fast until tomorrow.  If it is hunger that takes them, it is no worse than if cancer takes you because hunger keeps you focused on God in every moment.  And, you see the people living with what many would say is “everything they need?”  They are living a filthy life at times, indulging constantly and not stopping to give thanks many times in the day for each breath they didn’t deserve [because unless we are saints none of us do].  These people have more than enough to give and many won’t even give their zakat [10% of their earnings and profits to be shared with the poor, as
prescribed in Islam, even from the poorest] because they will prefer to keep it for themselves in greed.  It is those people you should feel sad for if they never stop to consider that perhaps their life is the worst one.”

Those words are near exact and, since we live in a culture where belief in God is dwindling, I’m not sure if any of your readers will know what to make of his message, but I certainly never forget that conversation in my hardest moments.  And, I can’t discount anything he says, having lived a life many can’t fathom himself.  It is a blessing to know him.

I hope his message comes through the way he intended, despite any possible cultural or religious differences.

Peace and blessings to you my friend, I love you for the sake of God.  You are a really amazing woman on a beautiful journey that will shape your soul in many ways.

February 26, 2011

The Boy and The Bottlecap

A few years back there was a nice lady that worked at the desk at my gym.  We would always chat a little and one day she was handing out flyers for a massive yard sale.  She was selling all her family’s possessions so they could move to Ethiopia to do missionary work. She went on to tell me about how her 6-year-old daughter was very distraught about giving away all her books.  I had a 7-year-old daughter at the time and (surprise) found this very difficult to hear without losing it.  My (then) 7-year-old also had a passion for books and I couldn’t imagine her having to part with them.  The nice gym-desk lady went on to tell me the story of adopting her Ethiopian son (then 4).  Her family felt that it was their calling to return to his home country and affect positive change.  One thing she said which stayed with me was that “he always needs to be reassured that there is plenty of food.”  Even though he had been living with them for a substantial period of time, he had to be told daily that there was plenty of food to eat because the memory of no food was central in his mind.

This conversation affected me deeply.  We always have food!  In fact we not only have food but we have so many choices of food!  And I, for one, delight in all the different ways that food can be combined and recombined into delicious recipes and beautiful, satisfying meals.  I love eating and having enough to eat. The thought of a child being that hungry makes my heart hurt. He remembers chronic hunger vividly.

Within a few months, I happened to meet a man who was a business associate of my boss at the time.   He had adopted a child from Ethiopia.  Of course I interrogated him as thoroughly as I could politely manage, and he was generous with his stories and information.  The part of that conversation which I will never forget was his description of his son’s life before they brought him home.  This little boy was begging on the streets at age 4.  I had a 4-year-old boy at the time.  A precious little wonder who I protected like a mama bear. 4 is practically still a baby.  And the thought of someone else’s baby with no one to fiercely protect him, no one making sure he has food…

When the man and his wife went to pick up and bring home their new son, they asked him “do you have any possessions you would like to bring with you?” And the child said that he did and with a huge smile on his face produced a bottle cap.  That was his toy, his favorite item in the world, and he brought it with him.

When we find ourselves riddled with guilt for not providing for our child’s every whim, we must bring to mind the joy that this boy was able to extract from a bottle cap.  And we must teach our children to care, to reduce their consumption of the world’s resources, to be happy with less, to devote more of their hearts to the needs of others.

And the best way to teach this is to do it ourselves.