Small Victories

Today was a good day.

When I first arrived, I noticed that Bishop’s school uniform was ripped in so many places, including the butt, on each side, that he was wearing a sweatshirt tied around his waist. You could still see the holes in his shirt, and the stripes that were supposed to be a bright blue were more of a light sky blue instead. I asked how we get him a new uniform. They told me to ask Madame Elizabeth, so I asked her and she said she didn’t know. Then she called me back over an hour later, and said she is hard of hearing my language, but one of the kids explained it to her. She told me to ask the headmaster. I asked the headmaster, and he said there are actually 3 orphans needing new uniforms. I said okay. He told me he would send for the lady to come to school and take their measurements, and maybe she would come today or tomorrow, and have the uniforms done in one day. Before she came, they told me there were now 5 orphans who needed a new uniform. I said okay. They called me to the school the next day and the headmaster requested the money. I told him I wanted to meet the lady who was making the uniforms, but really I wanted to make sure they weren’t charging me extra. He told me she has already come and gone, and that she needs the money for material. I said I would give him part of the cost, and the rest when I see the uniforms. He said he would send someone to bring her the money, and it would take one day for the uniforms. The next day, I saw Madame Elizabeth, and she told me that 1 more orphan needed a uniform. I said okay, but that is it, and she smiled and said of course while she also told me about how and when the boy’s father had died to make him an orphan. She said, “God bless you,” so many times in between her story. Yesterday the kids came to tell me that the headmaster wants to see me. Time out.

Everyone knows where everyone is all the time, or where to find them. I am constantly being kept track of, and its totally not my style. Also, when people call you to come, they just automatically think you HAVE to come. I will be walking across the compound, and someone from the other end will call me over, and I have to walk over. This makes it really hard to get anywhere, and after a while, it starts to work my nerves. Sometimes now, depending who it is, I will just say, “I’m going,” and point in some direction. But they all also know the room I am staying in, so they will literally send people to my door, and they will knock until I answer.

I decided not to go when the headmaster called me. I told the kids okay, so they wouldn’t get in trouble for doing their job. I knew the headmaster was going to ask me for something and I didn’t feel like dealing with him. I saw him today and he told me that he sent for me yesterday and waited for three hours. He’s a liar. I went around the school about an hour after he called for me, and he was gone. Anyway, today he told me that the uniforms had come in. We rounded up the orphans and went to the headmasters office. He began to take them out of a big plastic bag, asking the kids who was who, and which was which. The uniforms were beautiful; white and bright blue, and brand new. The girls got dresses and a shirt and skirt, and the boys got shorts and a collared shirt. They were all so excited, and it was awesome to watch. After the headmaster had passed out everything, he looked at them and told them to say thank you. Suddenly, they crowded around me and started singing, “Good Shepherd thank youuuuuu, Good Shepherd thannnnnk you,” and I think I almost cried.

It is crazy to be here in situations like this. I still get my Instagram feed, and its different to look at from here. I view them in a new way, often while I am hot and dirty and holding the hand of a little kid. I see posts of people showing off their diamond watches and chains, or holding a stack of money as a phone, and meanwhile, usually what I am seeing over here is something the opposite and it all seems so warped to me that this exists in the same time and the same world. I know it is because I am on the outside looking in right now, but I can’t help but think: How can it be so skewed? It is hard to imagine it here if you aren't in it; if you don't live it everyday for a period of time. I understand that this kind of thing is not meant for everyone, and I don't know why it is meant for me, but I keep finding myself back here. It is all so heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time, and the contradiction of it is confusingly beautiful (if that makes any sense to anyone but me). It is not your responsibility to care about orphans in a small African village who need new uniforms - but I feel like it is mine.

Small victory today; that is what this place is about.