Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Guest Blog Post from Harvin.

Time got away from both Donna and I. Between spending time trying to work on much needed projects and getting everything ready for the older kids to go back to school, while also trying to cram as much time just being with the school age kids before they left, the blog fell by the wayside. True confessions, I am back in the States now, experiencing a simultaneous combination of personal inspiration from my time at New Hope Homes and sadness and sense of loss at my leaving. But I wanted to share this post trip anyway. There were a few days I had the joy/responsibility of being alone with the kids, as Donna had to return before me. This is the email I penned to Donna the night of her departure, my first night alone. It is really a tribute to this amazing woman, as I was able to experience first hand the love and sense of loss these precious children felt at her departure, as well as my own sense of void without her presence and strength. .

--------------- Dear Donna, .

Well I've already failed you since it's 10:17 and the boys are just bathing and brushing their teeth now. In my defense the uncles and aunties didn't leave till 830p to take them to dinner and I was too distracted by my 3rd crying preteen boy of the day to notice the time. .

We arrived back in the van to everyone waiting for Yoga. I took two rugs from the classroom out onto the patio under the near full moon, and there we did our dedication to Donna, to everything she means to all of us. Sure it began with a lot of giggles, but by the first warrior pose they were reasonably quiet, and as we all held our hands high and gazed at the moon, I spoke of what a strong warrior you are for them. Raising money to feed and clothe them, traveling back and forth across the globe to be with them, how lucky they were to have such a strong warrior guiding and providing and praying for them. By the end they were actually quiet (well mostly) but we managed to all lay there under the moonlight for nearly two minutes, silent and reflective and honoring the woman you are. .

Then of course the giggles started.... The girls went inside and the boys, Sande, Innocent, Isaac, Lionel, and I stayed out on the carpet and practiced. .

We practiced Warrior 1, and talked about the strength of that pose, how when you're legs are rooted in the earth and your arms and eyes are raised to the heavens you are balanced and strong. We practiced Warrior 2 and learned how looking over your fingertips is like looking at your future, rooted in the strength of the base you learned in Warrior 1. And as we launched into, and fell out of Warrior 3, we spoke of how a strong warrior launches himself into challenges and his future. How even if he falls out of it, that’s ok. He can launch again and regain balance and success. And then we talked about the hardest and most important warrior pose, 'Humble Warrior'. As they bowed over their front leg and tried to extend their little clasps hands to the sky behind them, we talked about how as men we must learn to be humble, to the women in our lives, to our brothers and sisters, and to others. How some of us are better or stronger at some things, yet to be really good or really strong is not enough and only through being humble are we true warriors and men. .

I have to say, I even inspired myself with that speech.... This crazy idea to teach them Yoga has provided some really awesome teaching moments. .

So as we 'men' sat there under the moonlight the conversation turned to my age. I told them I was 44, that most men in my country live to be 80, so I was half way through my life, but that was ok because there was still so much I was looking forward to doing. I told them their lives had barely begun, that as much as they had experienced, they still had so much to live. That how when I was their age, I barely knew where Africa was, let alone think I would ever travel there. That they already knew so much more than I did at their age, both good and bad. Maybe it was because of my own emotional state but here's where it got a little surreal. I talked about what this trip has meant to me, how it, they, have helped me to understand myself better, who I was, and who I wanted to be. How I was apprehensive about the next part of my life, how I most likely would have to move away from everyone I loved to find a job, but how grateful I was that this happened so that I could have met them. How I was trying to be excited about my future, and yet how some days I am incredibly sad or scared or both, just like them. .

And then I described Lionel, his future, how someday he would have a grand opening in a London gallery for his art work that people loved and wanted to pay him for, and how we would look at his paintings someday and laugh, remembering him drawing pictures in that old school house. .

And how someday when Sande finally figured out soccer wasn't the only sport around, he'd take up running seriously, win the gold medal in the Olympics, and when asked why he loved running so much he'd tell people he learned it by chasing this crazy old Muzungo around the streets of Kigali. .

And how someday no matter where in the world you went you could find a friend of Innocent, because his easy laughter made everyone want to be near him and know him as he travelled the world. .

And how Isaac would be president someday, maybe of a country or a business, and how his people or his employees would love him because he was not only a great leader, but a humble one. And how someday when they watched him address the UN, they would roll their eyes at how important people thought he was when they knew he was 'just Isaac'. But they would also be secretly proud of their brother and best friend. .

It was awesome to see these boys who have known so little to actually dream big dreams. Even Sande just sat there still, staring at me the whole time, completely devoid of at that air of indifference he wears so often. .

And then someone came out, and Lionel got distracted and started laughing and getting loud and distracting, and then Grace, Rose, Kayatesi, and Alice came out and laid down practically exhausted, then Manuel (the ‘Uncle’ and night watchman) to tell me it was late and he was taking the kids down to the lower house for dinner..... .

And then I noticed Sande was now laying on his side, oblivious to the commotion, silently crying into his arm. .

I managed to get Lionel and Isaac to take one of the rugs back to the school room, and tell everyone else that Sande and I would finish taking the other one in and meet them down at the lower house, and verbally hustle Prince and Nshimiye out of the house to catch up with the others at the gate, and, and, and..... .

And Sande just lay on his side silently crying into his arm the whole time. .

Once everyone finally left I curled up behind Sande on the ground and just held him and rubbed his back. After a very long time he sat up and openly cried in front of me, perhaps the first time he has ever cried in front of another man. Needless to say I cried too. After awhile I got up and got him some Kleenex, and both of us some water. He cried for a very long time. .

And then Manuel returned and I asked him to join us, so he just laid down next to us in silent support as Sande finished exorcising the last of his sadness. Manuel is such a good man. I witnessed him this week running with the kids and I, so careful with their safety. I witnessed him tonight just silently supporting a broken child. He really is one of the good ones. .

And then it got really fun. I asked Sande if we should teach Manuel some yoga. We taught him the warrior poses, just staring at the night sky together. And Manuel held a Headstand for nearly 5 minutes without effort, but kept falling out of Crow. And he can hold Plank forever, impressively beating Sande’s best effort. Yet as strong as he is, he's completely inflexible, so I put him in Pigeon pose and he screamed/laughed in pain. And it felt so good to hear Sande laughing along. .

The other boys returned and I went into Donna mode, teeth brushing and herding them towards the bath. As I was herding I found Sande inside and he looked at me with a weird look at told me, and I quote, 'You are like Bible Man'. I asked him who Bible Man was and he rifled through the DVD's and found one entitled Bible Man. Now it will come as no surprise to you I'm just not that familiar with Christian cartoon characters, but near as I can tell from the DVD cover art, Bible Man seems to be some Christian super hero in tights with 3 kid side kicks battling evil. Considering the reverence with which Sande said it I took it as a very sincere compliment and managed not to chuckle at the irony. .

With the boys now in progress of bathing, I grabbed my computer and began to type this email to you, exhausted but happy, thinking that I had survived and even managed to do some good. I was thrilled to break through with Sande and feeling rather good about myself when I hear the sobs. .

And here’s where I break. I found Prince stripped down to only his underwear, the last one to bathe, alone and sobbing uncontrollably by the bucket of water. It is a visual I will never forget, that of such a small child so vulnerable and so alone. I wrapped him in my sweatshirt and held him there for 40 minutes until his crying subsided enough to get him moving. I asked him if he wanted to finish bathing in the morning and he said 'jes'. I tried to gather his clothes from the ones remaining there with him just saying 'jes' and 'noh' to my inquiries, some of the few simple English expressions he knows. I led him to bed where he couldn't find his PJ top, so I went to my room and grabbed one of my Tshirts, dressed him in it, told him it was mine and so I would be with him all night. And then I just had to leave and go outside. .

So here I sit eating left over pizza from Abby’s pizza making with the kids this afternoon, tears in my eyes, listening to Diana Krall on my iPhone and wishing my friend Donna was hear to process with. I have just spent the last 45 minutes holding Prince's naked body in my sweatshirt by the bathing station as he sobbed uncontrollably. Four sobbing boys in one day is a lot for anyone to take. I feel so helpless. I must say crying nonstop for 10 minutes by myself while sitting alone at a Home for orphaned children in Kigali is not something I ever imaged I'd be doing in my life. .

Donna, I wrote this because I needed to talk to someone and you are not here. Truthfully I do not know if I'll even send it to you, or if I decide to, when I will be able to and when you'll get it. I also don't know if I can do this, whatever this is. I feel so committed to these kids, especially the boys, and yet the future looks so daunting and I feel so weak, helpless, and completely out of my element. How you managed this by yourself for so long is completely beyond my comprehension. But maybe a little sunlight tomorrow and hopefully a little sleep tonight, maybe the combination will give me some new energy tomorrow. .

Knowing you, I imagine you haven’t read this with completely dry eyes, but just in case they are, in the interest of payback for randomly calling me three Sunday's ago and putting me on this path to tears, let me just say this.... .

I have never seen so many with so little love someone so much. You touch these kids in ways that can't be described, and although it may pain you to hear from a 1st hand witness about the extreme sadness these kids feel at your departure, that is only the mirrored emotion to the unbelievable joy they feel in you're presence. You are a remarkable woman. These kids are incredibly blessed to have you in their lives and I feel incredibly lucky to call you my friend. Thank you for everything you do for them, and everything you have now done for me. .


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