I am not going to get the mother of the year award after I confess this one.
It was 8:00 ish and I was tucking my little girl into bed. It was a day where I felt that although I really really loved my daughter, I really really couldn’t stand to be around her for one more second. It had been a day full of complaining:
“Mom, I don’t like this shirt. It feels funny.”
“Moom, I don’t want this. We ate it yesterday.”
“Mooom, I don’t want to … Moooom, I don’t have to … Mooooom, that is so icky!”
I seriously came this close ( imagine dead bugs on the bumper of a farmer’s truck) to plunking her on a shelf of cereal boxes in the grocery store and putting a for sale sign on her forehead, with a huge warning : “Not responsible for any lose of sanity that may result after purchase.”
So as I was tucking my little precious pumpkin darling dumpling doodles of a child into bed I was thinking: I don’t want to go through another day like this. And then it hit me.
“Pumpkin,” I said to her, “would you like to go and visit Desta tomorrow?”
My little girl’s eyes got as wide as frisbees. She sat up in her bed, barely able to keep herself still. She was like a bowl of jello sitting on a jack hammer.
“Oh oh oh! Can we really go and see her Mom?”
“Of course, you can pack your suitcase and we’ll hop on a plane tomorrow.”
I turned off the light and as I climbed the stairs I marvelled at the innocence of a child. Desta was our sponsored child. She didn’t live next door, or in the next city or next province. She lived in Ethiopia and I would need a tad more time to arrange a trip there.
That morning I put a suitcase by the door and set out a breakfast like no other for my daughter.
Kira bounced up the stairs. “Mom! Mom! Are we still going to visit Desta in Ethiopia?”
“Of course. We’ll get going right away. I thought you would like to eat what many of the people in Ethiopia have for breakfast. As soon as you’re done we can get going.”
My daughter took a look at the table, looked at me, then at the table again.
“Well,” I said, “I know you were so tired of eating the same thing day after day after day I thought that maybe you would like to try something different.”
My daughter looked at the plate and glass and her chin fell to her chest. A minute passed, then two. I had never seen my child so quiet for so long. Then finally she said those words that made me think that maybe things were going to be alright:
“I’m sorry, Mom. I won’t complain anymore.”
I gave that little girl of mine a big hug. Not because I knew she wouldn’t complain anymore, because gosh golly she will. But she got it. She actually got it.
I dumped the glass of muddy water into the sink and gave our dog the crust of old dried bread while my daughter grabbed the Cheerios.
Have you ever met a person and after a few minutes into a conversation you realize that you are in the presence of someone powerful and great like Gandhi or Martin Luther King? I think that when people talk to Amani they must get this feeling. Amani has been through hell and back. No, correction, she lived in hell for eight years. She was abducted by the LRA when she was sixteen, forced to kill other children, innocent civilians, and be the wife an LRA soldier and give birth to his two children. But, and here’s the big thing, Amani faces each day by refusing to let the past continue to be a part of her life. She realizes that reliving the past only makes her a victim over and over again.
When I asked Amani questions about her life with the LRA I couldn’t help but think that she was patiently waiting to get to the questions that dealt with her new life, the life out of the bush, as many formerly abducted people (FAP) call it. She spoke of all new things in her life: the completion of her high school education and then receiving her first degree, the encouragement of her children to complete their education, and all this possible because she applied her meager earnings to what is the most important thing in her life: hope.
When she meets other FAP’s she tells them of God’s love for them and encourages them to look forwards, not backwards. I can’t help but think that as she tells others this, the message is planted deeper and deeper into her heart until it is as much a part of her as every breath she draws in.
And for this I commend Amani. I admire her for moving forward. She shares the pedestal with such greats as Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and yes, the boy who inspired me to write Bullets, Blood and Stones: the journey of a child soldier: Charlie.
My journey as an author, giving voice to child soldiers.