Patrick’s OUCH and the Contentment/Generosity Dilemma

Sunday morning—oh, how I wish I could take this back. Lyn and I got ready for church and then waited as everyone else did. I went into the bathroom because I needed to use it before we left. Patrick followed me in and I scooted him out the door before closing it. No sound, and then I heard Florence’s voice, “Open! Open!” with that frantic note to it (I still feel this awful feeling in my stomach as I write this). The fingers of Patrick’s right hand were caught in the hinge side of the door. Oh, he cried (that no-noise at first was the catching of his breath at great pain) and I held him and walked and looked at his smushed fingers and wanted to cry myself, feeling like a great, clumsy muzungu, the bad mother—the one who didn’t deserve to be a mother to this little boy.

After a while Wilfred came back with the car. We loaded in, all eight of us, and went to church. Patrick still cried and snotted all over me. I couldn’t get him to settle. By this point, Lynda had called Dan, who was at church himself and actually able to speak with an orthopedic surgeon who said we could x-ray, but even if it were broken between the joints (thank You, Lord, it was obviously NOT in the joint itself), all they would do at age three would be to splint it for a couple of days.

Vena thought we were downplaying the severity, acting as if it were not serious, so Lyn and I knew we were between a rock and hard place. How to acknowledge that Patrick was in serious pain—no doubt about that—but to convey that a trip downtown to x-ray his fingers was not only unnecessary but would cause greater trauma to him? Both Lyn and I were almost willing just to do it anyway to prove that I, his adoptive mother, had his best interests at heart. So much at stake here—and very sticky how to circumnavigate it.

God amazingly worked things out. At church, everyone but Lyn, Patrick, and I got out and went into church. Wilfred had responsibilities, so he asked Philip’s younger brother Huntington to take us downtown. Here’s where it gets good. First, Wilfred said, though, we would need to pick up Teddy, a girl from Mercy, from the school where she’d been staying and take her to the clinic (local—really just a nurse’s station) and get her treated for a fever she’d been having (with the understanding that we would pay for her treatment, of course). We said that was fine. By this point Patrick had settled down, sad and whimpering on my lap but not sobbing or distraught. Lynda and I just needed to see him close his hand part way (bending both joints in the fingers ) to know that it wasn’t broken. By the time we picked up Teddy and arrived at the clinic, he was doing it, so we were able to take him into the clinic, have the nurse look at him (not that she was nearly as knowledgeable as Lynda, but we had appearances to keep up) and get some medicine for him. Of course, the nurse prescribed an oral antibiotic (for slightly cut fingers) and Lynda and I are shooting slight glances at each other, saying without words that it makes no sense to put the entire body on antibiotics when only the fingers need it. Oh, well.

So we were able to tell Huntington we did not need to go downtown and we were able to go straight out to Mercy to deliver Teddy—and then we stayed there because Wilfred had asked Lynda and I to work with some of the kids who had homework to do over holiday. By the end of our time there Patrick was playing with Sallee and showing his hand to everyone for sympathy. Our biggest worry at that point was infection to the actual cuts on his fingers because the skin had flapped up and then fastened down again, probably trapping some dirt underneath it. If it were my other kids I would have forced them to clean their hands with soap and water, but Vena would have thought I was WANTING to cause Patrick greater pain, so I had to be careful with that. So I’ve treated Patrick with salt-water soaks and antibiotic ointment and bandaids, and he thinks he’s pretty cool with his little bandaged fingers. Some swelling still, but definite progress, and no sign of infection. Thank You, Lord.

While we were at Mercy, though, Lynda’s money was stolen out of her purse. It was partly our own fault for putting temptation in the way of kids who have formerly been on the streets, grabbing whatever they can for their survival. When we first arrived, we discovered they didn’t have pencils and the children needed them for their booklets, so Lynda pulled out her billfold to get money for Michael (one of the 19-year-olds who lives there) to go to one of the barristas (little shops) to get some. She had to pull out a wad of money to get the thousand shillings needed, and probably half the kids saw her wad.

Then we started working, but it was so loud with all the kids in the front dining room that Moses (the boy I was working with) pulled me to the back dining room, in one of the back buildings. I left my bag in the room with Lynda. I gave it a quick thought, but thought, “Oh, she’s in there. It will be all right.”

Later, after the poor kids had been working for three hours (and, oh, those booklets are SO not helpful—far above the children’s learning levels and not learning-focused at all—just evaluation—and what they evaluated, the kids didn’t know, so I’m not sure WHAT the point was), Lynda came back to find me in the back, and our bags were left unsupervised in the front. When Lynda and I picked them up about a half hour later, her money was gone.

What an awful feeling. It wasn’t violation, it was, “Oh, what have we done to one of these kids?” I knew we had to tell Wilfred; these are his kids—he cares about their spiritual state—about their growth. When he called me a few minutes later, I told him. He asked to speak to Delores (one the girl leaders) and then big Moses (who isn’t BIG at all at around 5 feel, 120 pounds, but since he’s twenty-three and not ten like little Moses, he gets the “big” title).

Here’s what’s amazing. When Wilfred arrived, he disappeared for maybe three minutes, and then came out. “We need to go,” he said cheerfully. We thought he assumed that there was no way he was going to get that money back, so he wasn’t even going to try. (We didn’t think there was much of a chance, either).

The next day, however, Wilfred disappeared in the morning, and then came back around lunchtime with the full wad of Lynda’s Ugandan shillings—the currency we were most certain we WOULDN”T see again. The Kenyan shillings and fifty dollar bill still haven’t shown up, but Wilfred’s wisdom and restraint (on Sunday he told the children he was very disappointed and would be out the next morning to talk with them) made the guilty one think and feel sad—and confession resulted.

We ate a late dinner at home Sunday evening, cleaning Patrick’s hand and washing up the dishes, and then we went to bed.

Monday we hung out around the house—which is far more enjoyable when I have Lynda around—someone who will speak English exclusively with me, no Lugandan asides, plus, she’s my sister, and we get along well. Then we went downtown with Philip because he needed to send some emails to Moody Bible Institute (where he’s hoping to attend next year) and it’s so hard to get things done at an internet café (I generally get one email sent every thirty minutes in one). We took taxis to Speke Hotel and relaxed outside while first I and then Philip did some work on the computer. So nice—part of me feels guilty enjoying anonymity and luxury so much, but I don’t think that’s the way God wants to me feel. But I’m not certain, because when you drink a cappuccino (oh, that was SO good!) and know that round the corner is a street child begging for money to buy bread, it makes you think. Oh, Lord, so many things we don’t have answered down here. So many ways our flesh interferes—and our guilt complex as well. I don’t want to make “going without” a more spiritual way of being simply because it requires some self discipline or it just sounds like it would be. Quite truthfully, if my “going without” is a result of my trying to be pious or earn some kind of respect and love from you, then that stinks in Your nostrils just as much as the glutton who ignores the street children every day and eats steak while they watch. As usual, I cannot reduce this to a formula, a mantra. Following You requires one footstep to follow another, and though the way is narrow (after all, I can only follow YOU, not anyone else), it is not a straight line that I can predict. I suspect You want me to ask You in all situations if You want me to give/not give, indulge/go without.

Lynda and I were talking about that verse in which Paul says he had learned contentment in ALL situations—in plenty and in want. I am not in want—never have been truthfully (except in great need of help—and that just possibly counts)—but I do not think I have learned how to be content and not GUILTY in plenty. I always feel bad that I have and others do not. Yet what I have has come straight from Your hands. Thankfulness FIRST, I think, and perhaps the right attitude toward giving in all situations becomes clearer.

My computer’s battery died while Philip was writing his last email (I really should have taken the power cord), so we went to an internet café so he could finish up. Lynda and I walked while we waited (and the straight exercise felt so good—I’ve missed running here, but in the area where I’m living, a muzungu just walking is a strange sight—a female muzungu in shorts and a tank top running might just bring shame to Vena and Wilfred in the neighborhood.)

We ran into street children, of course, and I determined that the next time I walk downtown I’m buying some bread and passing it out. Of course, I might get mobbed. Who knows? AAAH

We also found a little supermarket and bought two loaves of sweet bread for the house (we almost got salt bread, but the checkout clerk warned us—Angel told us later that’s for diabetics, who knew? It actually looks more like a regular, homemade loaf of bread than the “sweet” bread, which does have a hint of sugar taste to it. We also got toilet paper because I hate running out at home, and I’ve found my attitude hasn’t changed here. Side note: I find that I (trying to be conscious of limited resources here) actually use less water and toilet paper than Vena does. I pull two squares to wipe my butt, and she pulls off six to blow Precious’s nose. Strange. I’m also never sure when to flush—how much ARE they paying for running water? I don’t know.

By the time Philip was finished in the café, it was almost dark, and we really shouldn’t have still been downtown. Lynda and I could tell Philip was getting a bit anxious, as we walked through crazily crowded streets and sidewalks to try and find a taxi headed up toward Nansana. Dave called me as I walked, and Lyn walked behind me as I carried that huge black laptop backpack and talked on the phone, sure that at any moment someone was going to snatch it from out of my hand. People and cars go so many different directions; it’s not like Chicago where pretty much everyone is going the same way—the sidewalk almost has lanes, and you catch on to them pretty quickly. Not in Kampala. Bodies everywhere. It really is an ideal place for a pickpocket. You get used to the feel of flesh brushing against you as you walk, bodies bumping into you. I don’t think I would know if it was a person actually trying to lift something from my pocket or backpack.

I finally turned the backpack around and we wound our way through street vendors finally to reach the line of taxis. But then we couldn’t find a taxi headed to Nasana. We settled for one going about halfway, and then we boarded bodas (Philip and Lyn on one; I on another) to finish the journey. They took us all the way to the house—my first experience riding a boda at night; not too bad—and then didn’t want as much money as we offered them, actually gave some back. Amazing!

The church small group that meets at Wilfred and Vena’s house on Monday nights was almost over, so we slipped in the back and Philip joined them for the last few minutes (I get the feeling he really is supposed to be there) while Lyn and I hung out with Angel in the kitchen.

After everyone left we had dinner, which I was actually hungry for. Then I cleaned Patrick’s fingers and went to bed. Precious coughed (a bad one) for a long time, and then we got some sleep.

Speaking of sleep, my eyelids are beginning to close right now. I’ll write more tomorrow.

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