Ave Maria, Full of Grace.

Most days of the week, I’m not sure I really believe in God. Moments like today though, well, read on.

Today we were treated to several performances put on by the Ave Maria Vocational School here in Lire. Some were funny, most were catchy, but all were entertaining. It made me remember something I learned in the music and dance class I took in Limerick: music and dance, in almost every culture, is a method of defining a people, a way for them to be entertained amidst whatever may be going on in an individual’s life. People gather, dance, make music, laugh together. In particular, when a group of people are in conflict, this becomes absolutely necessary.

Community

To the Irish, music and dance became especially important during the numerous British subjugations where families were forced out of their homes and thrown on the streets, left to starve. Through all this turmoil, the people needed something that allowed them to come together, laugh, and forget for a little while about the troubles facing them. It gave people a sense of community and familiarity amidst a threatening surrounding.

Today we visited a school of over 350 students. I learned that a third of them are infected with HIV, most are orphans, and who knows how many were terrorized by the war and Joseph Kony.

Yet through it all, these people find a way to make music, dance, and have the happiest looks on their faces when they do. They invite us to dance with them, hold our hands and give us hugs, ask to take pictures with us, and wave at us as we leave.

As well, today I witnessed a rare moment where it was difficult for me not to believe in something greater. It started raining, and one of the priests told us that in Uganda, rain is seen as a blessing from God. It started raining as the kids were finishing their final dance, and continued as we took pictures with them and received hugs.

Now, up until now I thought I was ready for everything. I was ready to see starving people sitting on the ground, ready to see little kids carrying even smaller kids on their backs, ready to see tragic and terrible things. But I was not ready for this. I wasn’t ready for the level of kindness I was shown after the performances were finished. I wasn’t ready for a complete stranger, a kid, take my hand, and lead me around the dance floor, give me a hug after, and ask to take a picture with me. I wasn’t ready for all of the kids, as we were leaving, to give us hugs, ask to take pictures with us, and tell us we are always welcome. Why should these people do something like that? We haven’t done anything for them. We haven’t made their lives any better. Yet for some reason, they show us a kind of kindness I haven’t seen before. The kind of kindness that I was not ready to see in this country where a third of the kids we met won’t be here in a couple years, or even months.

In a moment like that, despite everything I believe to the contrary, it’s hard to believe that there could be evil in this world. It’s difficult not to believe in something as thin as “goodness.” Which, I suppose, is kind of the point. Especially in my current journey in
trying to understand what “goodness” is.

I still haven’t come to a conclusion, but here’s what I saw today: people who live in a country where for the last few days, I’ve seen overwhelming poverty. I saw these people gather together, make music, laugh and dance and sing, and invite us to join them, give us hugs and tell us we are always welcome there. I saw a people that, from my extremely thin and shallow observation of them, are a people who have every reason to be angry, bitter, and sad, take the time to show us hospitality, and say and do some of the kindest things I’ve ever seen. Today, I saw something I was not ready for, and I’m still processing it.

TL;DR: I might have seen something good today.

8 thoughts on “Ave Maria, Full of Grace.

  1. Patrick, what a great post. I think we are are overwhelmed by moments of our trip. And it is moments like that where we realize something about the world and something about ourselves that are important. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable.

  2. Patrick:
    I do not know you personally but I truly respected and appreciated your confusion and wonder as to what you have seen. Sometimes, I think folks travel to locations of poverty and think that they are such a gift to the folks they see when in reality it is just the opposite. Your humility and honesty were wonderful!

  3. Great post. It is a marvel how people can live in such desperate circumstances, but still exhibit such love and kindness. They seem to have hit on the saying, “Attitude is everything”.

  4. Hi Jason! Got your blog info from a friend in CO. Our Roots and Shoots group has had a connection with a women’s group in Agoro, Rowt Omiyo Women’s Bead group, for 6 or 7 years now. Never met them, but feel such a connection. So if you pass through Agoro, please give my best and tell them Earth Friends Roots & Shoots in Dallas continues to think of them. If one of the women has access to email, please give her mine. Since the male leader of ACDA died almost two years ago, communication has been very sparse. I think the reaction you got was a sense of hope, that they are thought of and remembered. That was the gift of your presence. I look forward to reading more. Take care.

  5. Patrick, my apologies! This was my first post and am new to blogging. I did not see the authors’ names until after my post. Please forgive me for addressing this to Jason. Best!

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