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November 10 2015
November 10 2015


What does it mean to be sorry?  To feel sorry for someone?  You might think that we, as extremely (materially) privileged people of the Global North, would come to Africa and see (material) poverty as it doesn’t exist in the United States and feel sorry for the people here.  This is not what happened during my pilgrimage.  The people have been sorry for me.  A simple expression, a simple word, “Sorry,” has overwhelmed me through the sincerity of the mouths that have uttered it.

On my return to the Joy Village following the mama’s spiritual retreat, the children noticed that my arm was tied up in a sling.  I had injured it two weeks before arriving in Kenya, but had never given it the necessary rest it needed to heal. I showed no outward signs of injury on the night I spent at Mama Grace’s “Kindness” house three days before.  Christine was the first to approach me and tenderly touch my arm.  I had been standing in the drive with tears running down my face, not due to pain, but stirred by the joy of seeing these children run with open arms to their moms, whom they hadn’t seen in two days.  A rush of happy cheers and turns of joy-filled feet as the crowd of tiny people surged forward.  With earnest and gentle eyes Christine looked up at me and said, “Sorry.”  I tried to explain that the arm was a little swollen and needed time to heal, but before that moment I had no occasion to learn the Kiswalhili word for swelling.  Then, other children crowded around and touched my arm one by one and said, “Sorry.”

The third time I returned to Joy Village I was not thinking at all of my arm, but that the children had not forgotten.  They rubbed their little hands along my sling-less wrist and repeated a Kiswahili word that I tried to remember.  Christine looked up at me and said, “I have been praying for you.”  In the end, I didn’t need that mystery word translated.  The language of love transcended vocabulary.


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