Friday, January 31, 2014
Kids, last night it was my privilege to see the Watoto Children's Choir perform in my little town, on their cross-Canada tour. They are touring to raise money to fund the orphanages back home in Uganda, full of children orphaned by AIDS. Fourteen million AIDS orphans struggle to survive in Africa.
Kids, as I watched, I was overjoyed and heartbroken at the same time. The children are so vibrantly alive, so joyous, singing and dancing and leaping all over the stage with such energy. And each one of them has a story, some of which they told – all have been orphaned by AIDS, all have known hunger and having no one to love them. This mission took them in, creating an entire village for – and of – them.
I didn’t cry during their stories of what had happened to them. But I fought the tears and my heart ached as they were singing and dancing. I was choked up by their resilience, their radiance, their joy in life, after so much sorrow and loss. Because that is what life is – joy and pain – loss and abundance - abandonment and rescue.
[If you want to learn more about the Watoto community model, here is the link to their vision: family homes, not institutional living, schools, vocational training, gardens.........the vision of its creators, Gary and Marilyn Skinner.]
Just in the little corner where I sat, in the audience, I saw other stories, if not so desperate. In front of me was a mother in her fifties and her adult autistic son, who rocked gently during the program. I watched their loving interactions and recognized: hers is a hard path, but she has a purpose greater than herself, in caring for her son. She accepts her path, and makes it a loving one. Beside me was my little sojourner Sebastian, age four, who in his short life has been taken from his family of origin, who talks about "my social worker", and who, in his foster home, lost his "Papa", whom he adored, in 2013. And his foster mom, my friend, who lost her beloved husband, who died three weeks after being suddenly diagnosed with lung cancer. And me, also with stories of loss and resilience.
I watched these children, radiant and shining, whose stories broke my heart, then healed it again, and came home with a very full and grateful heart, to be part of this marvelous tapestry of life, this community of souls - and filled to the brim with the beauty of Africa, beloved country - filled with the beauty of life.