I recently got back from a month long journey to Eastern Africa. The following story is a taking place on August 15 2014 during this journey.
I made my way from inferno of buses in downtown Kampala towards a strip mall
painted bright with all the colors of a rainbow, humanity crashing in on all sides. Leaving the 40 kg luggage behind with one of my new found Ugandan brothers in Christ I followed the back of another across the market. People everywhere, intermingled with the smell of barbequed corn and matatus (motorbike taxis) almost running me down. Jack fruit, sugarcane, cell phone cards, spices, American baseball caps and a myriad of other things for sale in the street but I was looking for an internet café where I could get a long sought after update on what was happening outside my 21 day Eastern Africa bubble, so I followed my brothers back, tracing it through the crowds of people.
Then I saw someone in my left corner. I noticed because this someone, this someone that has a name, was not moving. Everything else was moving but not him. Not this child. Tucked in under an African style wheel barrel was this thin little person. Everything and everyone around him was moving but not him. He had found his point of exhaustion. The body of this precious child could no longer keep up so it had stopped, right there at the side of the street, people walking around him, continuing their days.
I did not know what to do or how to react to this reality. My brain did not seem to be able to compute and take this reality in. So I did what the rest of the world seemed to be doing, moving on.
My guilt for just moving on came crashing over me later. This eulogy is not an attempt to appease that guilt but it is an attempt to honor the lives of all the children that live and die unnoticed, both unborn, unwanted and ignored. I pray that by remembering their lives when their bodies have given up I might begin to care for them more when they are still moving. Lord have mercy!
Maybe 2002 – August 15 2014
“He was probably born by a very young mom that died while delivering him or one of his siblings. He did not know his father but he did know hunger. Waking up everyday to the pangs of it and falling asleep in the midst of it. He survived his first 6 years due to living close to a maize mill. Driven and motivated by the hunger inside he made his way by foot, early in life, to the streets of Kampala where smells of food promised a better life. He started his career as a “street kid” at age 6 even though learning the ropes of this occupation almost got him killed several times. His education was hard, short and painfully thorough. In his short career he was abused, stole, lied, smiled, ran and tricked not because he wanted to but because there was no one, no one there to defend him. He was a one man show, not because he wanted to but because nobody cared. He heard things like: “Just another rat in the gutter”, “Go away”, “Nobody cares if you are hungry”, and “You have to work to earn your bread.” He never heard his name spoken by anyone else than his mom and that memory was gone. He ached out a living for 6 years in Kampala before his body fell apart from under him. One limb at a time the body failed him. One day he sat down in the middle of the street in downtown Kampala, the noise fading as he fell a sleep, the body crying in pain for food.
But he was done. He could not find the strength to fight any longer, so he slowly gave up his last breath of air under a wheel barrel, head resting on the sidewalk and looking towards the sky, faintly hoping, against all odds that someone, just someone would have noticed him. Solochild Withaname is mourned by Christ and survived by his large family of street children.”
If this post stirs your spirit to pray for the unnoticed children of the world please share it with someone else that might pray.