• Come and Sit With Me

    “Come and Sit With Me” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal
    When you get this idea to move to Africa so you can help orphans living with AIDS, you draw curtains across most of your heart’s windows. Their views are too frightening. The unknowns, the incomprehensible realities, the hopeless questions. The whys.
    But you don’t sit in a darkened room, either. Your heart remains bright with the light from one big picture window of active compassion. Its curtains wide open. Its sunlight rays of hope.

    But as these nameless orphans become your children. Your babies. Nameless no more. Orphans no more.

    And as you hear them say, “Daddy, Daddy, I love you soooooo MUCH.”

    As you realize that they are talking to you.

    Then, like it or not, your heart begins to peek behind all those closed drapes. While you are gratified by your remarkable success; while it thrills you to see children suffering less—living longer—there is nothing you can do to stop this dreadful desperation that comes and sits in the chair next to you.

    You look out these windows together.

    =========

    “My God,” a staff member says to you one very dark night. You are holding the body of one of your little girls. The third of your children to die in the last thirteen days.

    “My God,” she whispers, “They’re all dying.”

    Again desperation taps you on the shoulder, reminding you that he has crept through a window you have been powerless to seal shut.

    =========

    Yes, you know that you can drastically slow the progress of this virus with your TLC and wise treatment. But progress it will.

    Die they will.

    Except for the wisdom of the Miraculous.

    While Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) exists just outside one of the windows, it is impossibly out of reach. For your kids.

    For my kids.

    My babies.

    Until.

    Until—that is—until an even better hope comes in.

    And takes desperation’s seat.

    =========

    The AIDS Healthcare Foundation recently announced the establishment of the Aidchild Treatment Trust Fund to guarantee ART for my kids! For the rest of their now-to-be-long lives!

    I will never be able to explain this feeling.

    “Hope just got better,” I keep saying. “Better hope. More hope. Real hope.”

    When I was told this wonderful news, the first thing I did was to call my mom in America. “Our kids don’t have to die,” I told her. “They can live now.

    “They can live.”

    We cried as our hearts sat together and enjoyed this incredible new view.

    “Hope just got better,” we said to each other. “So much better.”

    =========

    Still, though, there is this terribly dark understanding that there are so many others who do not have access to the treatment they so desperately need. (We are the only orphan program providing free ART to children in Uganda, and one of only a handful in the world.)

    We must change that. We must! Thank you, AHF, for your incredible efforts to do exactly that.

    My sincerest thanks to everyone at AHF. Surely I will never find words to express something so much larger than “thank you”. How do I articulate this amazing gratitude I feel for saving the lives of once dying orphans who call me Daddy? And who no longer have to die.

    =========

    Should anyone doubt, should any get discouraged, I quietly invite you to come and sit with me. In a chair that once belonged to desperation. But that now hosts an incredible hope.

    Come and sit with me. The view is out of this world.

  • Bright Eyes and Gooey Grins

    “Bright Eyes and Gooey Grins” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal
    “Daddy, you see,” my toddlers all kept saying. “You see,” they scampered through the house about my feet. As they always do.
    We remind me of the families of quails who flutter across the dusty Arizona roads where I grew up. The papa-bird leading the way, tripping the way, from one sage to the next. One ditch to the other.

    “You see,” they kept urging me to go to the babies’ room—thinking I had not seen our newest addition: precious little Isaiah. The toddlers were eager to share this new life with me—thinking it would be a great surprise. (Who doesn’t ooh and ah over a new baby? And they know how I love them.)

    Finally, I set my agenda aside to honor their request. All the while, trying to convince these little ones that I already KNEW about our baby; that I had welcomed him hours ago.

    So, our top-heavy-float paraded through the kitchen and into the babies’ room.

    And bless it all if I couldn’t help oohing and ahing all over again. Three of our babies were all snug in their beds. Each laying on his or her side. BRIGHT eyes, and little gooey grins.

    So CUTE!

    Each got a special kiss. An extra pinch. And my stupid chorus of glee.

    And then I looked down at my little entourage. And I swear they were doing high-fives with their eyes; as if to say to each other, “Ya see that? I knew Dad would get a kick out of the new kid.”

    And, of course, just like that they had a new agenda, and off we went, “Daddy, you see this now.” I was less interested in the new shipment of soy.

  • The Simplest of Moments

    “The Simplest of Moments” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal
    “How was the night, dear?”
    “Great, Daddy. How was your night?”
    And so begin my days. “Osuze otya, baanbi?”
    “Bulungi, Daddy. Osuze otya?”

    Over and over each day.
    Over and over every day.

    The exchange took place many times this morning as I made my way down to the office. Meanwhile, Sam, 3, and Simon Peter, 7, competed for my free hand (the other hand holding folders, a phone, a two-way radio, and my coffee cup).

    Then Abraham, 4, fell into place, also kindly competing for Daddy’s hand. Finally we reached a happy compromise, each holding the other’s hand—channeling the morning’s camaraderie through our human wiring.

    Once in the office, Simon Peter took the seat opposite mine at the desk, and on the left. Abraham took the right. Sam climbed onto my lap.

    And then toddled in little Justine, 2. (She weighed only five pounds when she came to us at six months old!) In typical Justine-style, she considered not the idea of sharing a chair. Instead, a doll clutched in one arm, she used the other to tug a wee table from across the office—an inch at a time—to a perfect central locale just opposite mine.

    At first, she had an obvious conflict as she struggled to balance her comfort-level with the fact that her new perch wasn’t quite close enough, nor tall enough, for her to rest her elbows alongside the others on my desk.

    “Never mind,” she clearly concluded, though, as she returned her focus (and both arms) to the doll.

    Apparently, she liked sharing in this case.

    And so did I.

    My how the simplest of moments produce the greatest joy!

    As an anecdote brings festivity to a dinner party.
    Like talent brings magic to ivory keys.
    As wisdom lends clarity to darkness.
    So human connection communicates the reality of the Divine.

    *******

    “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.” ~ Johannes A. Gaertner