Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Party

This little segment, originally posted in September of 2007, was about my group in Rwanda giving a little party of sorts for the orphans at The Sisters of Mother Teresa's near Kigali. Thinking back on it, the party was partly to make us feel good by making a contribution to the desperate children there. I do think we brought them some fun, some brief time away from their everyday lives.

The funny thing is, I don't believe they felt poor. The children and adults who found their way to Mother Teresa's were lucky. They received food and fellowship and someone to care for them. They were the lucky ones as there are plenty of folks there who did have these things.

We heard laughter, saw smiles and dancing and the universal signs of friendship. I am so blessed to have been a part of this time away from my routine and slip into the lives of these beautiful people. I could never convey the respect and admiration I have for the Sisters.

Playing and singing for the children at Mother Teresa's.

So we came back several hours later with all kinds of sugary treats. Fanta (soda), biscuits (bis – kweet) and big suckers. There were suitcases filled with clothes and necklaces which were kind of like little toys. About fifty kids were seated on concrete benches singing beautiful African songs. The adults in charge would not let them get up at first. I recognized some of the children from our visit earlier in the day.

We gave out the treats. I played guitar. These children (music video The Forgotten of Rwanda) didn’t know English or any of the songs I played but they seemed to rock out at the instrumentals. Mostly blues. That’s sort of universal I guess. They jumped up and slapped the guitar with sticky fingers and pulled on the strings. That part was tremendous fun. The grownups who worked there kept insisting that everyone sit down. They eventually gave up and let the kids get loose. One kid, about five or six but hard to tell, could really dance. He spun and swayed and jumped in a free form style. He was having so much fun moving to the music. He was uninhibited and danced the wild dance of elation. He looked very handicapped. One eye was nearly closed. It looked surrounded by scar tissue. Teeth everywhere. But he danced with wild and free abandon.

I went to another area after a while and played for some of the adult women. Widows of the genocidemostly. They were seated on a low brick wall outside of their cramped and crowded rooms. Maybe fifteen or twenty. Mid-twenties to pretty old. Some were sort of dazed and had to be led around. A few really attended and clapped when I finished each song. I sang some blues and “Amazing Grace”. Slow. As loud as I could sing outdoors. Several women gave me an appreciative look and spoke in Kinyrwanda. One woman came up to me and clasped my hand to her chest.

After we had been there a pretty short ime the nuns whisked us away. They seemed relieved to be rid of us. I don’t think I blame them. We blew in, jacked up the kids on sugar and trinkets, hyped them up with crazy music and dancing and left them to the difficult task of getting them settled into sleep. In a way it was thoughtless. I do think it was fun but when I looked at it from the nuns point of view… I gave the Mother Superior some money as we left. She did not seem grateful in the way that I thought she would. I knew that they could use the money but the Sister didn’t seem to want it. I surely couldn’t read what she was thinking but there was no thanks for the party or the money or the suitcases of clothes, only relief when we left. Again, I don't understand so I cannot question.

There was a weird energy between her and Immaculee and Tim (Immaculee’s agent) and Richard (I’s old friend and cameraman). I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of that but it was an important day for me. I realize that this day didn’t make a real difference in the lives of these children and we probably made the adult care givers lives a little more difficult. It seemed to be a hassle to them. It did make a difference to the others I am traveling with and to me. How much I take for granted. When I am hungry I go the cupboard. When I need comfort, Heidi, I wrap my arms around you or hug Devin or Colin. When I am cold I put on a sweatshirt; when I am uncomfortably hot I turn on the air conditioning. There are so many who live with so much less. There are so many who don’t even have a hand to cling to.


Fatuous Anility said...

Here is a lesson...

Chris Hass said...

Yeah, I'm sure those nuns loved you! The music. The dancing. The loss of control. It's like you were living out your own Third World version of "Footloose."

Still, it's an amazing experience you were able to share with all those kids. I bet it meant more to them then you were letting on.

It's hard visiting places like that and wanting to do SO MUCH to help yet, no matter what you do, you feel as though you're able to do SO LITTLE.

There was a time I thought I could "fill my bucket" with good deeds and working to care for the world. After all the hardships my dad had to endure in his lifetime, I felt as though I owed a debt for being able-bodied and healthy. However, I quickly learned the bucket never gets filled. No amount is ever enough. I'm slowly learning to live with this.