Monday, August 31, 2009

Meeting Michael

Meeting our sponsored children was turned into a game. The sponsors were lined up on one side of the lawn and the children on the other. They were told to see if they could find their sponsors on their own. Our sponsored child is named Richard Michael (he prefers Michael) and he struck out the first time, trying another couple first. But he managed to find us on the second try with a little of our help.

A pang of guilt went through me at that. As a matter of fact, it still does. I should have been sending him new pictures of us every year. It had been a couple years since I had sent the last one and we were all bundled up in our winter gear. The poor kid didn't stand a chance.

We gave him the soccer ball we had brought and I took a picture of him holding it with my husband kneeling beside him. Both faces show anticipation with a little uncertainty. I think it took Michael a few minutes to understand that the ball was his to keep. When he did, he got very possessive of it.

Throughout the day we got to know each other better and became more relaxed. With the assistance of a translator, we asked and answered questions of each other. He learned that we have no children and we learned that he liked being our "son."

Lunch was interesting. He wasn't eating his chicken and when asked why, he responded that it wasn't salty enough. So my husband introduced him to the salt shaker. After applying enough salt to clog the arteries by just watching him, he ate his chicken right down to the marrow. He's got strong teeth.

We kicked his ball around before and after lunch, giving him a chance to show off his moves and me a chance to impress my husband. I hadn't played soccer since I was a year older than Michael. Later we took a boat ride on Lake Victoria and went swimming in the wading pool upon our return.

When it came time to give him his gifts we found a quiet spot under a tree in the garden. At first he was very formal but as he opened the first gift, the smiles came. In the package were some lead pencils, colored pencils, a sharpener, and two pink erasers. For some reason, the pink erasers were of particular interest to him and he was overwhelmed. That would have been enough, but being Americans, we had more. So out came the rest...a small sketch book, some matchbox construction trucks, and a pump for his ball. Finally, we gave him a shoulder bag to put it all in.

We gathered his things and put them in the bag to go back to our meeting area. He slung it on his shoulder and carried his ball. My husband and our translator, Wycliffe, walked on ahead while I lagged behind with Michael. He suddenly stopped and was trying to put his ball in the bag. I stopped too and helped by holding it open. The ball fit perfectly! We continued walking and suddenly he grabbed my arm, squeezed it close, and squealed! He was excited! That was the peak of the day for me. That we could give him such excitement over something so small as a soccer ball, pink erasers, and a bag to put them in.

The rest of our time was spent kicking his ball around and soon it was time to go. Quickly gathering together for a last minute group portrait of all the sponsors and children, my husband and I sat on the ground with Michael behind us. He placed his hands on our heads as if to claim us as his own.

As all of the kids and their translators climbed onto the bus, there was a lot of hugging and tears. But goodbyes have been a constant and normal part of my life, so aren't so emotional. All I required was one final acknowledgment after he was on the bus. He did that, reaching up, searching us out, and waving with a big smile on his face.

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