She looked like a thousand years, this single mother in the airport, pulling her luggage and carrying two small children. Looking the way I’ve felt so many times–like she was at the end of a very thin rope.
I walked over to her with my carry-on, said, “Excuse me–this may sound strange but, I’m a mom of two as well. And I just want you to know that you’re doing a great job.”
She looked up at me, and her bottom lip trembled. “Thank you,” she said.
And friends? You are. You are doing a great job. Because this motherhood gig? It’s not easy. In fact, it’s the hardest thing in the world.
No matter how old your babies, your womb aches like it’s begging to carry someone, and your children–whether they’re three or thirty three–they still belong there, within you.
And you wonder if there isn’t an umbilical cord somewhere that hasn’t been cut?
I can still smell Aiden. His toothpaste breath, as we lay in his bunk bed three nights before I had to leave, and we talked about his favorite things. And he decided his favorite big animal was a horse, and his favorite small animal was a cat, and beneath us, two-year-old Kasher saying “I cat” and “I horse”.
I lay with my youngest next, my cheek tucked to his, his tiny fingers playing with my hair.
I can still smell them even though I’m thousands of feet above them, in a plane on my way to Africa. And my womb aches something fierce.
And this, sisters, why we shouldn’t judge each other :
We’ve all got that excavated place where life once grew round and full, and it pulls us so close to the ground some days we’re forced to pray.
And I know there is a mama in Africa right now tucking her son into bed asking him what his favorite animal is, and he’s saying things like lions, or tigers, or elephants, and this mama, she’s leaning close with her brilliant smile and kissing him on the forehead and begging God the rebels don’t steal him away tonight.
Because in Uganda, that’s what they do–these rebel armies they come when it’s dark and they take the children, as young as five, and they train them to kill.
I glance out the window of the plane. Getting closer to heaven changes our perspective of earth. The land, portioned out and divided by trees and homes, and roads, and sure–soon I’ll be seeing some red dirt and different species of trees and animals and different shades of skin but from up here? It all looks the same.
I don’t want to forget that. When I’m doing art on the floor of the orphanage tomorrow with children whose parents have been lost to AIDS, or whose families just can’t afford to take care of them anymore; when I’m meeting my sponsor child Mark John and giving him a Jesus Storybook Bible and a baseball from my husband and a colored picture from my boys, I want to remember: we all belong to one another. We’re family — and family takes care of each other.
All of us mothers and children, we’re not so different from one another–with our hearts beating and our arms stretching the world around.
So won’t you join me, friends, as I land in Kampala and find my way to the children of Africa? Won’t you help us build a rescue home for abandoned babies? Listen as we share stories of boys and girls who used to fight rebel armies, who now are getting an education and singing in a world-renowned choir? Go with us to Rwanda to meet widowed women who’ve lost up to nine children each in the genocide, who now take care of motherless orphans?
The plane is quiet except for a child chattering, and somewhere, the faint cry of a baby, the soothing sounds of a mother. And here we are.
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