The little flashing cursor on my screen taunts me.
I narrow my eyes, trying to get these thoughts in head down into workable, at least somewhat coherent sentences. Hoping for clarity, hoping that this story tells not just of this one woman but the countless millions like her who are out there today in need of our help.
Yesterday I met our neighbor. She lives next to our house in a small shack with her two young children. We have waved several times, stopped to shake hands before, but this was the first time I have gotten up the courage to ask her story.
I use the word “courage” because part of me did not want to know her story. It is easy to tell from passing by that things are not as they should be, her whole home is barely the size of our bedroom, two small rooms, one of them open to the outside world, the other has a door that is covered by thin sheet of tin held on by a few sticks and some nails.
“Hello” I say in Amharic.
“Hello” She replies, as her two children dance around her feet.
“How are you” I ask as I bend down to place a kiss on the top her young daughters hand.
“We are good, God be praised” The mother says, a broad smile spreads across her face, and she turns her eyes upward for a brief moment.
“Is this your house?” I ask, as I gesture to the small concrete shack that stands directly next door to our home.
“Yes, we live here” She answers, this time her eyes turn towards the earth in shame.
“Are these your children?”
“Yes!” She says, lighting up considerably. “This one is Susena, and the little one there is Eyob”
I reach out and scoop little Eyob up into my arms, he is hesitant but allows me to hold him. His clothes are filthy and torn in several places and my hand unintentionally grips the skin on his side through one of the holes.
“Do you have a job?” I ask, as soon as the words leave my lips I want to pull them back in, embarrassed that I have asked something so forward.
“No” She replies. “I sometimes help out at the homes nearby, but I do not have a job. Money is small” Her face darkens and her brow tightens, as if the frustration that fills her life returns to her memory and kills all hope of joy.
“Does she go to school” I say, hoping to change the subject to something lighter, while gesturing to Susena who looks like she might be about four years old, just then Eyob wriggles his way out of my arms and back onto the ground where he stands eye to eye with the neighborhood dog who our children have named “Mocha”. The dog turn his head slightly and licks Eyob’s snotty nose.
“I go to school!” Susena chimes in with a smile as bright as the morning sun. “I go to nur-sery!” She says carefully pronouncing the word in English.
“She is a very good student” Her mother says cheerily.
“Their father is no longer here” She adds, and her eyes quickly turn back to the brown grass at her feet.
“Money is small” She adds, once again. I don’t doubt that she is telling the truth. There is nothing in her home worth more than $20, and never once have I seen her children in different clothes than the ones they are wearing right now.
I crouch down to the children again, partly because I want to see their beautiful brown eyes, and partly because I am so uncomfortable I cannot bear to stand any longer. Both children are giggling and smiling, Susena moves in closer and rubs her fingers across my arm, quickly discovering that my skin feels the same as hers even though it is not the same color. She looks into my face and laughs out loud. Now totally embarrassed at her forward behavior, she moves and hides her body behind her mothers legs.
I stand to my feet and tell them all to wait for me while I get something from my house. I am overwhelmed with compassion for this family, and starting to feel frustrated with myself for not talking to them sooner.
A few moments later I emerge from our home with a small bundle of clothes, and a pair of shoes for each of the children. Their mother gestures to me that she is not able to accept this gift, but I insist, and repeat. “No problem” several times before she agrees to take them from me.
Susena is beside herself as she figures out what is happening, and she begins dancing for joy as try to tie the laces on her new pair of red Converse sneakers, I can hardly get the laces to cooperate because she is moving around so quickly. Finally I get them tied snug on her feet, and before I can get back to my feet she kisses my cheek until it is slobbery and wet.
I put the smaller shoes on Eyob, and after a few trips back into the house I am able to find a pair that fits his long skinny feet. At last they are both in their new shoes and I explain to the mother that we will be praying for her and her family, and that if she ever needs anything that she can come knock on our door. Tears are flowing down her face as she leans in and hugs my tightly.
I do not know what we are going to do exactly, but in the coming weeks we will be talking to this woman and finding out if it is possible for us to employ her in some way. Although I am not certain that she will make a good house mother for our Bring Love In families, I am positive that we will be able to figure out something.
I say none of this to say that I did something great by helping. Our living room is piled high with donations that so many selfless people have sent over for our families in the past months. All I did was ask her story and pick out a few clothes. But I wanted to share her story, one that is all to familiar here in Ethiopia, and one that is exactly what we are looking to help mend and make right.
I do not know what happened to her husband, if he died, or just left his family, but so many women today are facing the same struggle that she faces, many of them are being forced to give up their children because they cannot support them financially. We are here to say Enough! We are here to help keep these children where they belong, with their mothers, and for the ones who have already been given up, or who’s parents have passed away, we are here to give families where there are none, and a future to a wounded people.
I pray that the story of this little family next door to us touches your heart as much as it has mine. I pray that you are not able to read this and keep on with your day, but rather that your soul is gripped with the passion that God feels for the widows and orphans in this world.