Keeping Promises by SAHD in Lansing

Topic: New Year’s Eve

I’ve had something eating away at me for the past two years. Out of personal pride, stubbornness and who knows what else, I’ve tried to move on and forget about it. But I can’t. I don’t know whether it’s been my journey through fatherhood or the simple principle of it all but the inertia has ceased and the buried memory of past promises surfaced somehow several weeks ago.

When it surfaced it hit me. Hard. And it hurt. I keep a lot inside of me and rarely let things like this out, but I lost it while having a conversation with a friend. I had no idea it would surface and no idea where it come from. I had been feeling down and struggling over some things and something inside sparked me reaching out to this friend and suggesting to go for coffee and catch up. Even then, I kept putting off setting a date to meet knowing I wanted to talk about something but not exactly having an idea of what I wanted to talk about.

New Year’s Eve two years ago. I was in Uganda at the time for a month long visit. I worked for a non-profit based in the U.S. which ran a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda. I was there to attend the first primary school graduation celebration. There’s two children at the school who I connected with from my first visit in March. One was a young boy who I just bonded with almost immediately. He followed me around the school grounds all the time. He was shy and quiet and didn’t stand out like some of the other kids. I had brought frisbees to play with and he was a natural, gifted athlete. It was another example of the universal power of play which crosses all cultures and places.

The second child is a young girl. I was at a community soccer game on my first trip when I saw her. She could have blended in like all the other kids except for a few things. She was severely disfigured from a burning accident. A much too frequent occurrence in the rural communities. She was also surrounded by children who were teasing her. I remember walking up to her and saying hello. She was so shy and definitely not used to people looking at her without gasping or grimacing. Her head bowed down immediately which many of the girls do as a sign of deference to adults. I told her I wanted to take a photo of her. She looked shocked and nodded at my request. She had a friend with her who she walked arm in arm with. I said your friend can be in the picture too. After taking her picture I walked around with her. There was a big crowd following us now, but no one was teasing her. They were more concerned with who this muzungu (white person) was.

After I came back to the U.S., I couldn’t stop thinking about this young girl and what her life would be like in Uganda. She was a pariah because of her disfigurement. Cursed by God to suffer such a horrible fate. She was ignored in school and as a girl, she would be a target for predators and bullies. I had to do something. I felt I was called to do something. Through some investigation, we found her home and family. She started school the next semester. It was exactly what I wanted to happen and I was excited.

It was around this time two years ago when I made my second visit to Uganda and looked forward to seeing “my kids.”  It was on this visit where I made my promise to both of these children to sponsor their secondary school education costs.

It was also around this time when I began to have a falling out with my boss, who happened to be one of my best friends as well. The details don’t matter so much really but we couldn’t continue working together and I left my position angry, frustrated and disappointed. I wanted to bury all of my experiences with this organization. I didn’t want to even think it happened. Until this month, I’ve hardly spoken about it. I hardly look at pictures or the videos I made. I was hurt and I’ve been hurting for two years. However, it took me until now to also acknowledge my own role in the dispute with my boss and good friend. I haven’t taken the steps to contact him directly but yesterday I contacted his assistant. I want to begin setting up my donations to the fund for the children’s secondary school education. I made a promise. I can’t gloss over this any more. I can’t pretend I didn’t make it. I can’t be the type of person or father I want to be unless I make do on what I told these children. I don’t want any special attention. Other than this post, I don’t even want to mention what I’m doing. I may even keep the donation anonymous. I’m doing what I said I would do. Finally.

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