Thursday, June 21, 2012

"Art imitates life" (or is it "Life imitates art"?)

Yesterday I paused in front of a hotel TV and watched a particularly moving scene of The Blind Side. POWERFUL,… but Sandra Bullock’s brilliant performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy is not nearly as powerful as the real life intersection of the lives of Anna Reed and Emmanuel Manirakiza:

Anna arrives at African Leadership Academy for Emmanuel's Graduation

Anna had (and still has) EVERYTHING! Born into a highly revered family, with an enormous farm that stretches far beyond what the eye can see. An resistibly magnetic, joy-filled personality. Very bright. Terminally beautiful. Sorority President and Homecoming Queen. Everybody’s BFF (and Maid of Honor). A highly compensated professional woman in US. And she left it all to share life with students in Rwanda. No, it was not because she sought some badly needed peace and rest. If you ask her why, she will not burden you with a heavy moralistic or religious response (although she is certainly faith-driven), but she will humbly smile and say that it seemed like a good thing to do and she just wanted to. But don’t be fooled: These modest and still waters run very deep. Anna has had enormous impact on many Rwandans and she is credited with sending many young Rwandan students to the U.S. for their college education through her Bridge2Rwanda Scholars Program,… but nothing compares to Anna’s unique relationship with Emmanuel.

Everybody's BFF (and Maid of Honor)

... and lover of all.

Anna and some of her Rwandan brood
Emmanuel has lived the worst lives and the best of lives: Both of his parents died during the Genocide. His father was stoned to death, and he watched his mother die of cholera in a refugee camp. His baby sister followed their mother within an hour. The U.N. refugee camp was indescribably hellish, characterized by theft, brutal violence, rape and deadly diseases. The only hope for relief was death (some anxiously drank poison) or flight. Although Emmanuel was only five or so (he still does not know his actual age), he fled into to forest and became a real “Forest Boy” and survived like an animal, eating only wild plants. He was shot, and continues to carry a bullet within him. Someday you can read the unabridged book, but for now I must fast-forward to “the best of lives”: Bishop John, Sonrise School, his becoming a tutor and mentor of other students, his providential adoption by Anna Reed, his acceptance into African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg, South Africa, where he became a wildly popular servant leader and entrepreneur, and his imminent departure to study at University of Rochester (New York) on a full scholarship. Emmanuel is anxious to complete his education and training, and return to Rwanda as an entrepreneurial servant leader. He epitomizes the hope and the vision of Rwanda. 
Emmanuel with "Teacha Nathan" (Allen) at Sonrise School

Emmanuel shows his 20-something "Mom" his ALA dorm room
No words adequately describe this relationship,... so simple, so pure, yet so profound
And he said, "Love one another."