“An Average Day” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal
I am often asked what an average day is like for me. Below are three days’ pages from one week last year. Special days. Average days. Perhaps they’ll be of interest. As always, thank you so much for your compassion and care, –Nathaniel, kids and staff
“What is the fuel that keeps you going?” she asked me. The American Ambassador’s wife was seated in her residence in Kampala; her chair possessing the two qualities that immediately reveal themselves in this important woman as well: understated elegance, and immediate comfort. “I like her,” I kept thinking. “I really do.”
I had been invited to this special place to tell her about Aidchild. She was eager for all the details. Her eyes seemed to suggest not only genuine interest, but absolute compassion as well.
An attendant brought coffee. Lovely china bearing the seal of the United States of America. Home.
A plate of cookies.
A soft breeze whispered through the opened balcony doors of the upstairs sitting room; presumably from Lake Victoria whose shores were nestled atop the room’s beautiful view.
But I couldn’t, for the life of me, answer her question. What does fuel me?
She invited me to come back later in the day for lunch.
“Sounds good,” I said. (“Neat,” I was thinking.)
Not far from her home, a policeman stopped me for running a red light. I hadn’t. He wanted a bribe. We argued. I called a friend for help.
From there, I picked up several friends and went to collect some items which had been donated to Aidchild. Then for some city-shopping, and back to lunch at the Ambassador’s home. (I didn’t know then that I would be back many times. A welcoming place.)
Two thoughts never left my mind:
What is the fuel that keeps me going? and
• • I just never know what a day will bring!
With his left hand, he pours the water from a pale blue plastic mug. Into his right. Then to his face. The process itself cleaning his fingers.
Now the plate. Next his doorstep. Everything done while crouched.
He is alone.
Why does it surprise me that people who eat alone must also wash their hands?
I see him from my window everyday—when I’m seated at my desk. Right now. Early morning. Or late at night when his paraffin lamp glows through the cracks around the shutters.
One day he was seated in the shade on a huge piece of cardboard. He was trying to work something out. To study something. His perch doubling as a scratchpad.
Periodically he wanders from his little hut into the larger, abandoned house in front. I don’t know why. I have been there several times to say hello. But never seem to find him at home. Except when I see him from here. From too far.
Yesterday, the man who is always alone, had visitors for the very first time. Two of them. He fixed them something to drink. Crouched. The pale blue cup. And another. They were seated on two homemade wooden stools I had never seen before. Did he make them especially for his invited guests? Excited with anticipation of company.
Or did he not know they were coming? Interrupted?
Solitary more than lonely?
Her husband is blind. Her son is five.
They all have AIDS.
She wants to give me her son.
What should I do?
When one of our counselors asked her why—why she wanted to give up her son—she said, “Because my husband has no one else.”
Adding, “I just can’t take care of both. We have no money. My husband is blind. And dying. And so am I. At least I could visit my son here.”
“At least,” she said. “At least.”
And so our counselor now asks me, “What do you want to do? What do we tell her?”
My reaction: “But he needs his mother. His father.”
I know they’re all sick—and aren’t getting treatment—but.
Is this really how far humanity has gone? Is this the end of three perfect life-gifts? Left with at-leasts which seem less than least?
With desperation we would like to think to be unequaled. But it’s not. This is one case. Just one.
What should I do?
I am twenty-eight years old.