I speak very few words of Luo and I know about five signs in Ugandan Sign Language. I’m really trying. I may not be able to perfectly communicate with all the children at school or people I may meet deep in a village. But I promise you, they know I love them.
I love people, deeply. I seem to trust everyone and that’s not always a good thing. But at Mass yesterday, I was reminded that love is our absolute calling from God. We must love our neighbors as ourselves. And I’m working very hard at that.
The news of the George Zimmerman acquittal hit me hard and made me (continue) to question our American justice system. I am mortified by how the whole situation played out. But at the same time, I think about the 70 people killed in Chicago a few weeks ago and other violence our cities see every single day. I think about being here, caught between a beauty I cannot quite describe and also intense poverty and need. We need to realize that when we are speaking about justice— it should be justice for all.
We are all neighbors. The color of our skin is irrelevant aside from a beautiful gift God gave us that allowed us all to be precious and uniquely special and gorgeous. We certainly cannot all understand one another, whether that be due to cultural differences or language barriers. But love is a silent weapon which when used appropriately, eradicates the need to speak and creates a certain peace that is so desperately needed in our world.
This morning, I was already shattered before 8am, but I suppose that’s typical. I was pouring my tea and I heard the loudest, most desperate cry. As I walked around the compound trying to find the source of the noise, I spotted a nursery boy crouched over in pain, tears pouring out of his eyes, right beyond the gate. All he could “say” to me was a point in the direction of a few older deaf boys. Those ‘stubborn‘ ones who always seem to be getting themselves in trouble. I tried to ask him what was wrong but he just kept screaming. So I did what anyone would do… I got down on my knees, I wiped his face clean, and I gave him a hug. As he stopped crying, I held his hand and walked him towards the sitting room, hoping Sister would be able to get to the bottom of the chaos. As I brought the boy to her, I said, “Sister, can you ask him what’s wrong? He’s nursery so I don’t think he knows enough English to explain.” And that’s when I learned he is deaf as well. She even tried to sign to him, but he’s in the class for students who do not yet know how to sign. Right now he’s learning how to communicate for the first time.
As I sat with the boy next to me, my heart shattered. I gave him a piece of bread and the rest of my bottled water and just watched him. Beautiful, precious, unique. I couldn’t imagine feeling hurt like he was and unable to explain what happened. It made me mad but at the same time, I knew that eventually he would be apart of a rich culture of deaf students at the school and hopefully in a new Uganda by the time he reaches adulthood. One that provides opportunities for the deaf and disabled and does not keep them from school or condemn them to a life of labor without much choice. Justice — allowing equal opportunity and treatment for them; allowing them to dream big dreams and create for themselves a future they can be proud of and enjoy to the fullest.
The news this morning was particularly depressing. George Zimmerman. Protests and riots all over America. Chaos in Egypt, turmoil raging in Syria. Congolese refugees flooding to western Uganda with no food, water, or shelter. If I focused on this all day, I would have been a ridiculous mess. So I did what I could. I wiped the tears I had been hiding, walked my boy to morning assembly and sent him off with a big hug and smile— after I washed his face clean. I greeted all of the beautiful students. And I drove off to visit our scholarship kids at Layibi, Gulu High, and Keyo to tell them how proud I am of them and check on their fees and grades.
None of us can do much. But we must do what we can every single day. Our society needs to wake up. We need to realize that there are more pressing issues than the ones we joke about as “First World Problems.” We need to demand justice ALL the time, and not just when it is popular. I beg everyone… to just start caring about people. It is truly simple. Solidarity is a means to world peace, but it must start with each one of us truly engaging with those around us and within our means. Until then, I’ll keep spreading love everywhere I go and hope that sooner or later, it will be enough.