• Fastened Together in a Bunch

    [From the early pages of Dr. Nathaniel’s African journal.]

    wild-flower-bouquet-ribbon-vintage-outdoorToday, I shall be sad.

    Somehow, strangely, the phrase brings me hope.

    Perhaps it is the implied boundary. Though I think it is something else.

    I think it is an embrace of this part of me — of us — which is quite real. True. Genuine. Heart-whole.

    An understanding. At last. Again. That when our emotions are picked and fastened together in a bunch — like the perfect bouquet they can be — should be — then each bloom emanates its own aroma resulting in the special perfume which is us.

    Me.

    You.

    Today, I shall be sad.

    I shall be sad because — while there is love — much comes from a commitment to unconditionality. Not to reality.

    Today, I shall be sad because of the little boy who rarely smiles. Pathetic,” they say. I say. Because, while ailments of body have been treated, the aches caused by an unknown evil remain. Perhaps forever.

    I shall be sad because of the forlorn old woman who always carried an empty basket; her only desire to brim every other. But they’re all empty now. So she will be alone.

    Today, I shall be sad because even when you do unto others as you would have them do unto you — they may not. Because selfishness hurts.

    I shall be sad because these treads in my climb aren’t worth it. Ruinous even.

    Today, I shall be sad because hope does not always deliver. Because good added to good may not produce more good. Because bad things DO happen.

    I shall be sad because it doesn’t all even out in the end. Because bad people don’t always get theirs. And because good people often do.

    Today, I shall be sad because. Because I am. 

    Tomorrow, the breeze will feed my spirit with life. And the candlelight will warm me again.

    The goodnight kiss will electrify. And the conversation will make me laugh.

    The song will be mine. And the cuddle will be splendid.

    The kids will giggle. And I will delight.

    The raindrops will refresh. And the smile will be enough.

    But today.

    Today.

    I shall be sad.

     

    In fourteen days, it will be three years since I lost my first baby, Milo. I miss him so. I still grieve. But our hope is great enough to light the dark places the make us whole.

    Even good. 

  • “An Invitation to Stay Long” (Nathaniel’s reflection on visiting the homes of his friends in Uganda)

    bananaPerhaps what is most intriguing to me about Ugandan homes is not found in a study of the exteriors, or a look around inside, but rather the perspective from their internal view to the outside.  I like to unlatch the window shutters – raising the hut’s eyelids – perceiving the world from within the living organ that is the home’s existence. 

    In rural Uganda, the view is often of banana trees.  The trees are truly lovely images, and the matooke (plantain) fruit is absolutely the delicacy of choice.  The plantations are abundant, providing nourishment and culinary delight even in the absence of prosperity. 

    The great-matooke-view is made even more special by the scene’s soundtrack.  The wind gives crackly voice to the leaves, while the steps of animals and people pad a similarly crisp-tune on the carpet of dry and fallen foliage underfoot.

    All the while, one is offered the loveliest of hospitality.  A visit to a Ugandan space quickly convinces the guest that kindness and manners are not merely taught here – but that they are heart-motivated.  Instinctual. 

    The vitality of this land does not only come from its plantations, channels and vast lakes. 

    But it springs forth from a noble humanity that is viscerally kind spirited – where gentility actually feels genuine.  Where emotional vulnerability is not feared, but broadcast.  Where poverty is not often seen in the soul.

    And where a stranger is always welcomed with a nearly whisper-quiet exchange of respectful greetings, and an invitation to stay long.

  • Please, Daddy. Baby, Please.

    (From the early pages of our founder’s African journal.)

    Every evening, about an hour before dinner, and about thirty minutes before TV Time, Dorah (age 11) comes to the window above my desk.  She stands on tiptoe, and peers through the bottom pane.  And everyday she has the same message: “Please, Daddy. Baby, please.”

    I remember my first morning in Uganda when I ordered a cup of coffee, the young waiter said, “Yes, please.”  I thought he had confused my request with an offer.  But, in short order, my cup of java arrived.

    A bit surprised, I looked at him and said, “Oh. Thank you.”

    He said, “You’re welcome, please.”

    So, it wasn’t long before I learned that please is the direct translation of a Luganda word meant to lend a genteel quality to any phrase.  It is as if he was saying, “Yes, I will be happy to get you some coffeein a very nice way.”

    And, “You’re welcomein a very nice way.”

    Kind of pleasant, actually.

    Anyway, everyday just before TV Time, Dorah peeks at me through the window. And everyday she says the same thing: “Please, Daddy. Baby, please.” Not asking me for the baby, mind you, but instead telling me that she has brought one of the babies to me.

    By this time of day, all my kids have finished with school, had their naps and snacks, finished their chores, and had their baths.  And Dorah seems to have figured out that I love to hold the babies.  She also adores cradling our little ones (as do most of the kids — so there can be stiff competition), but Dorah seems to be even happier with the opportunity to bring a baby to my arms.

    I’m not sure why, but it pleases her.

    So, she brings a baby to my desk, and gently places her onto my lap.  Along with a quilt.  And a toy-rattle or two.  And then I continue with my typing (though one-handed now) as Dorah runs off to play.

    Of course, as she passes the window on her way to the playground, I look up from my work (and my baby) just long enough to say, “Dorah?”

    She stops, raises herself once again on tiptoe, and says, “Yes, please?”

    To which, of course, I say, “Thank you, please.”

    And our life here in the village continues.

    Strumming its powerful rhythm of hope. 

    Please.