This evening, a baby boy was abandoned at the front gate of our site in Masaka. No note, just a basket of clothes. As I have spent the day processing this reality, I was reminded of something from my journal, written years ago on a similar day. I share it again below. –Dr. Nathaniel
“Someone has abandoned a small child at our gate,” Tonny said to me last Monday.
I assure you such a sentence causes the mind — and heart — to slow.
Reaction stands-by as realization clambers to do her job.
Like a docent assessing a new portrait. An expert reluctant to admit that this painting confuses him.
Is this a dark masterpiece painted with a hidden message of hope?
Is it a happy work — in the darkest of colors?
Surely it is not a window’s reality that must actually be processed by this beholder.
“His name is Marvin,” my assistant added. “That’s all we know.” And so, another baby joined our family. We think he must be about one-year-old. Maybe one-and-a-half.
In the past, as my staff and I have discussed such realities, we have always come to the powerful conclusion that, perhaps, the person who deposits a sweet orphan at such a gate as ours does so with a courage unlike any other.
Rightly or wrongly, they feel (even know, somehow) that perhaps it is the best possible future for the sweet child. Probably not their own baby. (Though, maybe Marvin’s mother is the one who carefully placed him here. I try not to contemplate too much. To think too far.) But they seem to know that the child will soon need a new caregiver. Somewhere inside sensing their own goodbye.
Anyone is welcome to visit our screened-in-porch-office, but this soul had not the heart for a referral, or perhaps not hope for her own tomorrow. His.
Maybe their dramatic, rather final departure from the child is really a compassionate bon voyage.
A gentle, terrible, wonderful send-off for their Moses-basket.
Through the reeds of uncertainty and hopelessness.
I am sorry.
That such a reality exists — for some — wherein a village gate serves as a solitary place of hope.
I am desperate.
With the reality that Marvin’s mom and dad probably died months ago. That their surrogate was likely sick. Or confused. Or hopeless. Or?
I am heartened, however.
That our gate.
A symbol of hope.
Though the darkness surrounds.
And never goes away.
“I know how people in exile feed on dreams of hope.”
–Aeschylus, 420 BC
To see a picture of Marvin, now an active young student, visit my Facebook page. He is third from the left in my cover photo.