Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Dolly for Mary from Heidi

Slums surround the capital city of Uganda. Dust covers the wood shack houses and everything in its vicinity. Sewage runs through the trench that separates the “road” from the storefronts. Yet a few small businesses line the crooked, bumpy lanes – barbers, repairmen, tailors. One wonders where exactly the fruits and vegetables come from.

People live in these conditions in order to be closer to the city center, which brings hope for more income. They travel back and forth each day, often by foot and often after 14 or 16 hour days. Some people, though, live here because this is all they can afford. Can you imagine paying rent to live in such conditions?

We stopped as this tiny girl appeared with her father…or her uncle. She peered at me as if I were a ghost and when offered a dolly tucked her hands neatly into her chest. Just shy of screaming, she was not interested. Yet another young one, watching the event unfold, decided to take her chances. She approached and, when offered the doll, gladly received her.

I asked this all-but-three-year-old in my very best Luganda, “Errinya lyo gwani?” What is your name? She understood and quietly replied, “Mary.” Mary is the woman’s name in the software program I’ve been using to help learn Luganda, but instead of telling this little girl about that, I asked her if she knew that Mary was Jesus’ mother (this time in English). She responded that she did – whether she really understood the question or not we’ll never know – and she thanked me for that doll while a string of ladies sitting on a stoop watched on. After allowing me to take her picture, Mary ran off to these ladies clutching her new treasure and wearing a smile bigger than any she’d produce for the photo.