Tag Archives: Herbert

A Greeting

A message to my family: I am sorry for not updating you on my whereabouts; I made it safely to Uganda.

I carry a laminated Ignatian daily examen card – made by Creighton’s Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality – in my backpack. Saint Ignatius of Loyola designed these examens to be a daily reflection that recognizes God in our busy day. Its second section reads, “I walk through my day to notice the gifts I was offered.”

I don’t think there is such a thing as a tiny gift because even a seemingly tiny gift matters to the receiver, and the way Herbert has greeted me is a gift. Herbert is our local expert and guide; this trip would be impossible without him. Because he has lived here all his life, Herbert knows Ugandan culture and its practices. It is customary for Ugandans to greet each other with a handshake; however, this handshake differs from the one we are use in the United States. Herbert taught me this handshake on the first night when we landed in Entebbe.

These handshakes start the same way – with handshakers entering the shake at 180 degrees with the vertex as the point where your wrist and hand connect. While the American handshake ends after first contact (and some shaking that varies in intensity depending on the enthusiasm of the handshakers), the Ugandan handshake continues with a slight lift of the hand and a change in the angle of the wrist to roughlty 135 degrees so that the hands are in more of a “hugging” position. These two step are repeated to finish the handshake. I hope this makes some sense. If not, I’ll just show you when I get back.

The physical act of doing the hanshake correctly, albeit, looks cool but does not qualify Herbert’s greeting as a gift. It’s seeing Herbert with a big grin on the verge of a chuckle as we simultaneously reach out to begin the handhake (even with the low likelihood of it being executed perfectly) that is the actual gift because knowing that someone else is glad to see me brings about a sense of belonging. And, in being surrounded by the unfamiliarity of a new place and people, this sense of belonging feels all the more sacred.

May we all start to treat greetings as not a formality but a way to show each other that we are glad to be with one another.

Celebrating a life

It was a journey I wished we didn’t have to make. I accompanied Teresa Dorsey on the first leg of her long journey home on her way to face the unthinkable. Her beloved mother, Cynthia Early Dorsey, had died. Teresa was on the other side of the world.

The first leg of the trip was the eight-hour drive to the Entebbe airport from Lira, a small town in northern Uganda. Even finding a car to rent there involved much behind-the-scenes maneuvering by our wonderful guide Herbert.

While Herbert weaved his way through the traffic of Uganda — roads in disrepair, drivers not really following any rules involving lanes or passing or speeding — Teresa and I talked. Mostly we talked about her mother. It was a lovely, sometimes tear-drenched, sometimes laughter-laden conversation over the miles.

It made me wish I had known Cynthia Early Dorsey. Cynthia was a wonderful mother, encouraging her children to follow their dreams. She loved to travel the world herself  with far-flung adventures from a stint in the Peace Corps in Côte d’Ivoire, time spent working in Japan and an around-the-world honeymoon.

Cynthia loved to cook savory foods, but she didn’t like the precision of baking as much. Her Italian roots showed in the pasta made for holidays.

She was a woman who valued family over everything.

I loved hearing the stories of moments in Teresa’s life. We laughed and we cried.

I talked a little about losing my mom and offered what advice I could: It sucks. It will suck for a long time. It’s a big black hole that will never be completely filled. It hurts more than anything you can imagine. I wish I could have made it hurt less.

After our drive, Herbert and I sent Teresa off on the Brussels-bound plane on the next leg of her long, sad journey home. We tried to send her wrapped in love and prayers and good thoughts.

We have kept Teresa in our thoughts and prayers.  We especially thought of her as we made the journey home.