I was trying to decide if I should take you or not when we went to give Laurent his bike. You really wanted to go and see Laurent get his bike, so I took you (and Isla stayed home). We went the good way, and quickly found him waiting for us. As soon as he got in the vehicle, you quickly said "jambo" (as he didn't speak french) and gave him a cookie (that you had been saving for him). He was so excited, as was his neighborhood. There were so many people that came to see him off that day.
We headed to the center again and he quickly climbed up on his bike. It fit perfectly. It's pretty amazing actually. It had three big wheels that are propelled by the pedals that are controlled by the hands. It doesn't work on hills, the pedal size (or rather the pedal mechanism) is too small compared to the bike tire size. So, considering the awful hilly roads around Bukavu it's necessary to have friends help you in a lot of areas. The staff at Herikwetu took a lot of time walking around with him, making sure he knew how it worked and that he was safe. You were so happy, Natalie, to see him on his bike, independently maneuvering around the compound. So was he!
What do I want you to remember, Natalie? Well, I suppose I could easily say, "I want you to remember the horrific poverty and injustice here that creates a place where a man must crawl around in the mud like an animal and treated with no dignity or respect" or "remember the suffering of so many, of the death, the loss, the tragedy" or "remember the corruption, the mistrust, the suspicions" or "remember what it is like to have a strong, healthy, whole body and be grateful". I could easily say that those are the things I want you to remember. But I won't say those things, Natalie. Why? Because I don't want you to remember those things. You are only four. Compassion and kindness come easily to you. I don't want to manipulate you, or put the suffering here that even I cannot bear or begin to understand on your little shoulders. No, it is too hard to mix up pity and compassion, and gratitude with guilt. I want you to grow in love and generosity because you have known love and generosity. The rest will come.
What do I want you to remember Natalie? I want you to remember the world as you saw it as a small child. I want to remember the world as you saw it at four years old. As adults, we often see in pieces, "he is handicapped, he has no legs, he is poor, he is black" or the hundreds of other labels we place on people around us everyday, we judge, we compare, we try to measure up, we fight to be noticed, we step on others to get our way, we put "me" before anyone else. You will soon be surrounded by a world that judges you based on your external appearance, your wealth, your education, your skin, your... this or that, that pulls people apart piece by piece leaving no room for grace and compassion, for love. As a small child, you don't look in pieces nor do you see fragments, you see it all. Somehow, in your child-like innocence, you saw Laurent as a whole person, just like your self; someone to treat with dignity and respect (to share your cookies with). For sure, you noticed his body and you worried about his hands and knees on the ground all the time. But that wasn't all you saw. No, you saw Laurent as simply a man. Full of goodness, beauty, brokenness, and suffering. As every one of us is--full of goodness, beauty, brokenness and suffering. You saw it all, you saw all of him, and you loved. As Jesus loved, you loved. No wonder He called the children to himself. This Natalie, is what I want you to remember, nothing else sweet girl. I want you to remember how to love. Hold it tight. Hold it close, and never let it go. Remember, and never forget.
I love you.