Joy in a stranger’s joy, and pride in my son

rogers prospectingFrom Nathaniel’s journal:

Yesterday, I attended the impressive opening reception of the Hansen Leadership Institute.  You may remember that one of our oldest girls, Dorah, won one of the highly coveted fellowships last year.  And this year, our oldest, Rogers Dunigan, won one of the 15 international spots–out of an applicant pool of more than 700!

Alas, he wasn’t at the reception yesterday.

You see, early this year, when he received news that he had won, he immediately went to the passport office in Kampala.  He completed his application and expected a passport to be issued in short order, just as had been done for Dorah last year.

And we waited.

And we waited.

Time was becoming critical.  After many weeks, he received notice from the Hansen Institute: if he could not secure a passport within four more days, the Institute would need to give his spot to an alternate.

Two days later, he received a message that his passport was ready!  Excited and delighted, he made his way by public means, through the bustling and congested streets of Kampala, to the passport office.

After waiting in a long line, he finally reached the counter.  Without ceremony, the document was handed to him.  A combination of relief and elation came over him as he opened the most legally significant document to ever represent his life.

As soon as he opened it, however, he became crestfallen.

“What’s the matter?” someone asked.

“My name is spelled wrong.  Dunigan has one ‘n,’ not two,” he answered.

He placed the document back on the counter and slid it to the agent on the other side.

He would not be traveling to the United States after all.  He would not be a fellow.

When he told me this story that night on the phone, I said, “I think it would be okay to use it as it is, as long as the air tickets and visa are issued with the same spelling.”

“But then I would lose my heritage.  My name, your name, means more to me.”

I swallowed.

And so, Rogers was not at the reception yesterday.  Another young man, his alternate, was there instead.  And elated to be.  I congratulated him, and found joy in his joy.

And pride in my son.

Rogers is spending his summer as an intern in Uganda, getting him one-step closer to finishing his degree in business at one of Africa’s Top Ten universities.

And our futures, emboldened by our heritage, promise us so much.

Thank you for making these deeply nuanced stories possible, where we sort out life’s opportunities from life’s deepest meanings. –Nathaniel