Vigilantes, this story is one especially for those of you who have been around awhile, for those of you who were with me before I ever dreamed of creating an organization, for those of you who sent money to me for shoes for little kids and medicine for students and pigs for hardworking boda drivers and mattresses for bigger kids. This story is all for you.
At Pawel School after church on Sunday and after enjoying a meal of beans, posho, and cabbage with about 15 others, I saw a young man named Denis who used to be a kid at the first school I taught at in Uganda. He was never one of my students, but I knew that I knew him somehow.
“I know you!” I exclaimed. I explained how I thought I knew him from another school. “My Acoli name is Lanyero, but my American name is Alicia. You’re grown now, but I think I know you.”
Denis looked at me carefully and then his face broke into a wide smile. “Alicia!!! You look different! You’ve reduced yourself!!!”
“Yes, I’ve been working on getting healthier,” I said, always smiling at the Acoli version of, ‘You’ve lost weight.’
“You look all new.”
“Well thank you very much. I feel all new. I don’t remember how, but I really do think I know you, Denis. I know your face.” I looked closely at him.
“Yes, you do,” he grinned. “And I’ll always remember what you did for me, how you bought me a mattress when I didn’t have one in Senior 2. Thank you.”
That’s when it all flooded back to me. I remembered this kid! He was a sophomore in high school. He was shorter and a bit scrawny back then, but his sweet smile was the same.
I’d bought him and another student mattresses because they didn’t have them and the thought of these two boys having to sleep on hard bunk bed frames with no mattresses and then get up to work hard each day in school only to return to beds without mattresses and then do it all over again seemed terrible, and it sounded like something I could easily fix.
Vigilantes, Denis was one of the very students we ever helped. To see him at Pawel, which is some distance from that first school, where we were again buying some small things to help the students of New Hope was surreal.
Denis is grown now. He’s in college and is doing well in school.
He will always remember the mattress we bought him and I’ll always remember the delight of seeing one of our kids now fully grown and doing well.
You just never know how large the reach of even a small act of kindness. From mattresses and shoes to larger projects like paper beads and potteries, thank you for choosing to do this work with us.
We will always remember you for that.