Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Thanks Kat

Today Kat took me for a run,… my first run in Rwanda in more than a year. O.K.,  so Kat provided the idea, the inspiration, and the desperately needed encouragement,… and we started out together. And we both finished,… just not together. The burial instructions that I gave her at the start of the run were not needed (today).

After being reunited at our home, and my heart rate coming down from a critically dangerous level, Kat in her inimitable cheery way declared: “I am going over to Home of Hope to play with the children,… wanna come along?” (Home of Hope is an orphanage established and maintained by Mother Teresa’s Sisters of Charity of Calcutta.) I responded to Kat: “No thanks. I'm in the middle of rearranging my bookcase, and I think I will just stay focused.” (No kidding, I REALLY said that!) Kat took off alone, and I re-shelved about 5 books, and then sufficiently emerged from my post-run delirium to reassess. I called Kat on her cell phone and then took off running to the orphanage. (This is quite a running day for me. I think I must be about done for 2010.)

Mother Teresa’s orphanage. “How wonderful”, you may think. Well, yes,… and no. It is certainly wonderful in the thinking, and it is wonderful that there is a safe shelter for these young children who would otherwise have no chance of survival. And indeed it is a beehive of rambunctious, adorable little children. However, the aura of Mother Teresa is not visible on the faces of the overwhelmed nuns and their assistants, who are a facing into a challenge far beyond their capacity.

So I get there (huffing and puffing) and I search high and low for Kat. I cannot find her in the sea of children. (It should not have been too difficult: All of them are under 3 feet tall and black, and Kat is neither.) I kept looking until I found Kat in the most unlikely place (unless you know Kat): I found her in an unlit room, sitting on a concrete floor, with three spastic children (is it o.k. to say that word?) clinging to her and her holding a fourth child that was too weak and handicapped to cling.

Notice that this blog post has no photos of the children. Home of Hope does not permit photographs, I presume to preserve the dignity of the children and prevent exploitation. So as you use your imagination to picture these children, allow me to help with an epiphany by which I was struck as I followed Kat’s lead and sat on the concrete floor holding, playing with, singing to, and feeding these children: They are ALL made in the image of God. They are ALL His image bearers. As we gaze into their eyes, some sparkling, some completely dull, we must imagine that Jesus may be inside there. Most certainly, “they are all precious in His sight”.

Being in this place also caused me to ponder the work and the character of  Henri Nouwen, one of the great theologians and writers of the past 50 years. Nouwen was a celebrated thinker and writer, who chose to live a very simple, quiet life of self-denial in a community of mentally and physically challenged image bearers. Most of us would find such a place to be “indescribably surreal”. It is my understanding that Nouwen found that such a place allowed him to draw much closer to that which is real.

As I sat there singing to my admiring, squealing fans, such an eclectic repertoire as Old McDonald Had a Farm, You Are My Sunshine, and Ring of Fire, I had to again wrestle with the question: “Why? Why was I born into such PLUSH circumstances and easy abundance, and this child was born into such unimaginably challenging circumstances?” And I was reminded of my very favorite blog post, which drew by far the greatest critical reaction, as everybody else seemed to hate it (probably because my use of the word “vote” was misinterpreted to have presidential campaign significance, when I was referring much more generally to thinking, making a decision, and participating in the public discourse). But I must again consider it after this experience of following Kat into Home of Hope today. That previous blog post is entitled “The Veil of Ignorance” and was posted on June 13, 2009