The Great Thirst

“The Great Thirst” – from Nathaniel Dunigan’s Journal

Without exception, my kids arrive at our home like a lost wanderer at the oasis. Relief and happiness–I must imagine–are somewhere inside. But all-consuming is their thirst.

For life. For love. For hope.

This most desperate yearning has parched their hearts. Arid now. Scorched. Barren.

But never gone. The heart of a child is the most resilient living thing I have ever encountered. When love showers upon it as rain, the awakening is more immediate than springtime.

More rewarding than harvest-time.

And more festive than party-time.

It is as the Divine miracle of creation.

They simply need love, I have always known. Forever taught my staff. Reminded myself.

This journal has heard every one of these initial thoughts, listening to my heart after I have kissed each child for the first time (a few entries below):

  • “Julius: Another tiny body for a precious soul. You remind me of a radiant flower in a pot that has been broken–nearly destroyed. Let me help you find your magnificent garden.”
  • “Ronald: Your ‘Auntie’ cried when she left today. (She was the first temporary guardian to ever cry when leaving a child here.) Your swollen ears dominate your appearance, but I have a feeling that love has and ever shall dominate your life.”
  • “Prisca: You are drenched in invisible tears. I do not yet know if they are from a weeping of sorrow, or of pain, or of loneliness—or even if they are your own tears. Did they come from another? But I do know that I will not rest until they are wiped away and replaced with a countenance of joy, and a heart at peace.”
  • “Toby: We really searched for you today. Our directions to your village were not very clear, but our mission was like crystal: Rescue Toby. When I saw you, I became desperate about your condition. But when my eyes and soul met yours, I realized that my desperate search had actually been an urgent treasure hunt—and that I had found the end of the rainbow.”

As I revisit these pages, these thoughts, these moments, I try to imagine what my children might have written in their own journal on those days.

What did they inscribe on the pages of their hearts after a first kiss? Perhaps the first ever. From me. From my staff.

I am thinking specifically of Njuba’s first day. That morning, he was sitting bravely in the office as Tony (my assistant) processed his paperwork.

That same thirsty countenance.

I offered my hand. Quickly, without a smile, he wrapped his wee fingers around the tips of mine. I led him to the swings, and showed him around a bit. Over and again, saying, Welcome, Thanks for coming, and I am so happy to have you here.

After our walk, he told me he had to go to the bathroom. I escorted him to the room’s door, then waited outside.

He finished quickly, closed the door, and immediately took my hand again. (Without washing, I knew, but it couldn’t matter.)

That evening (as every evening since) Njuba insisted on sitting between my legs as we shared a space on the floor during TV Time.

I was tired. The soul-joy and heart-weight of a new child always seem to delightfully exhaust me. Like a long hike to a summit’s glorious vista.

I laid my back to the floor. The moment’s rest would have to equip me for the evening ahead.

Njuba also reclined.

His eyes still on the TV, he reached his little arm above his head to my chest, feeling for my hand. Finding it. Embracing it. Holding it.


What would be his first journal entry?

Perhaps the same as mine, for it seems that all my children reach out to us as much as we do to them. Not only to receive love, but to offer it.

Yes, together our journals might whisper:

While the heart longs to be loved,

its great thirst is…

to love another.