I was up early watching the news late last week regarding the violence occurring in the Central African Republic. The piece was on the refugees being created by the warring factions and the resultant camps being set up so that people who are surviving the violence can do just that…survive…barely.
There was a segment with a little, eight-year old girl who had just witnessed the death of her mother the day before. She had already lost her father, brothers and sisters a few days prior. As she spoke , the voiceover on the film translated the words she used, while the film captured her emotions. The tears flowed from her eyes and she kept wiping them away as she spoke. Frankly, I was amazed that she was even able to tell the story of what happened to her at all. Just last week, she had a family…now she was an orphan. I happen to have two eight-year old granddaughters. Fortunately, she had some distant relative step forward to take care of her. But as she recounted her mother’s death, it was clear that this little girl was deeply, deeply wounded. Who knows what will happen to her.
I sat on my bed and wept. I was flashing back to my November trip to Uganda and the images that this little girl’s story and struggles brought back to my mind. I recalled a story told to me by the director of an orphanage I had visited. I can’t repeat the details here, but it was a story of the horrible, terrible violence inflicted upon a boy’s father and mother while he was made to watch. A boy with a family one moment…became an orphan within minutes.
The distance and passing time of being away from Uganda since mid-November was suddenly brought forward into the present again. I experience emotional turmoil just seeing children that have lost one or both parents. I can’t imagine what these children/teens have gone through. The images that are burned into their minds and the deep hurt etched on their hearts must be overwhelming. Will they ever be able to rid themselves of the nightmares…the memories? All it took was a news story about a little, eight-year old girl to have my memories of Ugandan situations flood my mind.
It’s hard to explain to anyone who has not been to an African country, what it is really like. If you don’t have the images in your head (or the gut-wrenching feeling in your heart), ‘out of sight’ really is ‘out of mind.’ We are fortunate to live in the greatest country on earth. It’s helpful for us to have a proper perspective however. Terrible things are happening to children every day and certainly not just in Africa. I think we all realize that intellectually, but it’s important for us to see it on the news. It keeps it in front of us. If it’s within our sight, it will stay in our mind.
That’s one reason why US citizens adopt. They have an image or a story or they’ve had a face-to-face encounter with an orphan (perhaps on a trip to a foreign country). Once you’ve seen an orphan…had them grab onto and hold your hand…walk alongside you down a dirt road…and then have to separate from them…it stays with you. It’s as if a piece of them lingers and drills into your being.
There are days (and nights) the images rush into my head. I can’t get rid of them. Part of me wants them to go away…part of me wants them to never go away. They drive me; they fuel me and they’ll push me until we can get some children adopted into a family. Yes, out of the orphanage and adopted into a family. That’s where all children belong.