This is one of the many things two high girls told us they learned on a 4 month trip to Kenya. I heard this on Friday night at a celebration of the connection between Indianapolis and regions of western Kenya. The girls, took part of their senior year, to live apart from family and friends and see how they can help in an area of the world devastated by HIV/AIDS and poverty. Hunger, disease, and lack of opportunity permeate the community. So these two teens went there to help and to learn.
The line about the death of a child came as one related the story of her preparation to go. Knowing the statistics there was a good chance that they would see the death of a child. She fretted over how she would react, how she would feel, how would she get over it. Then the girls met Wellington.
She told the story of meeting Wellington at a Children's home they stayed at and worked with the children. Wellington arrived because of severe malnutrition and a father that couldn't take care of him. The girls played with him and gave him a sticker that said WOW. While Wellington didn't speak much he did learn to say WOW. A few minutes of connection brought joys and smiles.
However, Wellington could not be saved. His body was unable to recover from the effects of lack of food. He died. It was that moment that a young woman who fretted about her potential reaction learned that this death had a face. The face of a small boy. It wasn't about her reaction, it wasn't about how she would recover, it wasn't about how she would feel. It was about the young boy who learned the word WOW who will never again be able to use it. She was able to share that story with us and teach us to keep that in mind.
This quote has stayed with me all weekend. I want to be profound but I can't, I have nothing. All I know is that a boy I will never meet, who had a brief interaction with two girls from Indianapolis, will always live in my awareness as go through my life. Problems will become smaller, working to help others will feel more real, and hunger will never seem the same. At least I hope this is true. Beyond that when I think about these girls and what they taught me all I can say is WOW.
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