We choose who we want to sit with and our choices alter our reality and experiences in life. Sometimes for the worse, but also for the better.
Since coming to Uganda, I have been frequently reminded that the boys are the “others”. I have had people stop driving, as I am walking down the street, to scream at me about how I am unsafe. I have had people grab me and warn me about the “thugs” following me. I can’t even count the number of people that ask me if I am safe. We just laugh at their ignorance or ignore them, but every single one of the experiences stays with us. Reminds us how we are the “others” that no one wants around.
Besides the obvious issues here, when people wonder how the boys got to the point where they are, they don’t get that it was their intolerance that made the boys think their lives have no value and value no one else’s. How many times do you have to be told and made to feel like you are worthless and expendable before you start to believe it? How many times do you have to be told that you deserve nothing good and are suffering because you are a waste of space before you believe it? Do you give up and fall victim to addictions to numb the constant pain and negative words on repeat in your brain or do you do whatever necessary, no matter who gets hurt, to fill the void and take the good things at any cost?
I see both happen. I don’t blame either choice. I understand. But I do want something better and know that the boys all deserve something infinitely better than their current situation. But change is hard in any situation, but when people are constantly reminding you of your “otherness”, it can seem impossible and like what is the point.
We have those encounters a lot. Not just the boys, but me too because of my choice to sit with them. It frustrates me to the point of making me want to rage and tell people exactly what I think of them. I had two such experiences the day I was leaving Uganda. They are still heavy on my heart, but it is crazy how it always works out that God always puts you where you need to be to hear what you need to hear. This past Sunday, I almost didn’t make it to church, but I felt like I should really go. And do you know what the sermon was about? About making choices of where to align ourselves and the persecution we face for those choices being an honor and something to cherish because we get to share in people’s suffering and something beautiful can come from that.
And something beautiful indeed is happening.
I have the most fantastic boy, who calls me mama, that I would trust with my life. He would run to the moon for me and me for him. I know the things he used to do, but it was never who he was. He tries to save everyone and everything. When there are little insects scurrying in places I don’t think they belong and I am freaking out, he tells me to relax and leave them be. He isn’t the only one. There are the ones that push me to forgive and hope, when it doesn’t seem possible. There are the ones that give their last shilling to feed their friends that haven’t eaten that day, even if it means they won’t eat. The ones that share their meals with me, or bring me gifts, just to show they care.
So when someone says unkind words, to me and to them, they have no idea. When we are harassed at the airport and people don’t want us in any space where everyone else is allowed, they have no idea.
But I do. I know it is an honor to be persecuted and discriminated against with these boys. Experiencing the suffering together is producing something beautiful. They know I am with them and for them, no matter what. And everyone else? One day, they will come to understand how wrong they were. God willing.