Yesterday began with frustrations, delays, heat, a lot of walking, crowds, sweaty back rooms, damaged goods and endless haggling as we purchased the musical instruments for the SMK marching band. Let’s just say, doing business in Kampala is very different from doing business in Kansas City!
After a long, trying few hours, we emerged victorious. Sarah, her mom Linda, Max and I helped load up the van with a bass drum, some side drums and with a few trombones, bugles and trumpets.
We arrived back at the orphanage late in the afternoon to a royal welcome. The children knew what we had been doing, and their excitement was sky high. We were mobbed as we got out of the van. The instruments were passed through the crowd and eventually neatly arranged on the stoop that is the podium for school assemblies. Rosemary stood there and announced to the gleeful children that the SMK marching band could now become a reality. Clapping and cheers followed.
Next Rosemary told the children that it was Sarah who was responsible for this great gift. Sarah, who is the same age as many of these kids, has taken on SMK as one of her Bat Mitzvah projects. Not only is she here helping, she is raising money to pay for these musical treasures. She has learned early on how important it is to assist those in need, and she really “gets” what this is all about. (The rest of Team 2 often forgets that she in only 12!)
So then Sarah was mobbed. She is tall and towers over kids who are even older than she is. As they swarmed around her, there were hugs and high fives and hooping and hollering and a smile on Sarah’s face that I doubt any of us will ever forget.
The drums, cymbals and a trumpet were unwrapped and handed out to a few select kids (including my sonny boy, Max.) Next thing we knew, there was music. And the rest of the kids started marching. And then we were all marching, and the giddiness of the children spread to the members of our team. A riotous celebration ensued as we marched around the grounds of the orphanage, stepping in time to the pounding rhythms. (Dr. Tom later reported that his last patients of the day claimed they were absolutely fine and bounced right out of their examining chair so that they could join in the fun that was happening on the other end of the campus!)
We were all simply overjoyed.
And then the reality of it all came slamming into me. One of the older girls, Samalie, came to me (just after I had done a showy twirl accompanied by a high stepping maneuver) to say that there was some sad news. She led me to her dorm, where I found Pauline lying on her bed crying. I learned that Pauline’s uncle had died. Both of her parents are already gone; her uncle was her guardian. Now she is alone.
The girls in her dorm (her family, really) were hovering. One was stationed at the door; one was making sure she was comfortable in her bed. One had come to get me. Others were coming and going just to check in. Some were crying. They know this pain all too well. They were sad for Pauline; they are also sad for themselves.
I sat for a long time with her. The merriment outside our door continued, and I was able to clearly see the profound juxtaposition of joy and sadness.
Melissa had said the other day, “At the end of the day, these children are still orphans.”
She was so right. As much as we do here to provide happiness, an escape from their reality and an opportunity to move beyond their desperate situations, these children have a hole in their hearts that we can’t really fill.
Another older girl, Rosette, had told Lynne recently (when Lynne complimented her on her active, outgoing, engaged and joyful personality) that she just had to keep moving and doing and living, because if she stops, she might get stuck too deeply in her pain and not be able to move.
Pauline left just before dinner to go to her uncle’s burial. She had spent a long time in the arms of Melissa earlier in the day and with me later in the day and with her girlfriends (who are truly her sisters) and hopefully she will be able to begin to figure out a way to just keep moving when she returns to SMK on Wednesday.
The celebration of music continued for a long time. I have never seen such happy children!