Sometimes you can walk through life feeling like you have the power to do whatever you want and to take on every challenge. And then life can rise up and put you back in your place. I worked for the past year on every detail of coming to Uganda with such grand plans of accomplishing everything that I envisioned. I have always been a person who works in a direction to “make things happen.” For the first six days in Uganda I held on to this philosophy and tried to work my hardest to accomplish everything I came here to do.
But I have thought about this a lot for the past 4 days as I have lain on a hotel bed fighting a severe case of food poisoning that struck me down out of nowhere. It could have been on any of the hundreds of children's hands that I have held. Or if could have come from the chicken wings I ate at the one nice restaurant we ate at. It is hard to understand how a tiny invisible bit of bacteria can lay a life to waste until one personally experiences it. My life was kept safe by the team members with me who came trained to deal with medical emergencies. They gave me an IV and antibiotics which are restoring my health. It is humbling to know that I am far more fortunate than so many of the children I have met, who will die because of a lack of the things we think of as so simple, like access to basic hygiene, clean water and sanitary food. I thought my role on the team was so vital, yet I am blessed to know that so many other talented team members were able to accomplish what I could not personally assist with. Our Kagoma gate school has solar panels that bring electricity to a school in a village that has never had any power source other than human labor. People have received food and supplies. The teachers from three schools and the children from the Koi Koi orphanage have received all of the computers and technology that I was able to bring and have received sufficient training to be able to use them successfully. Hopefully we will be leaving some children and villagers a little better than before.
As I lay here today hoping to be healthy enough to fully participate in teaching for our final day tomorrow, I am left with the thought that Uganda is a place of extremes. I have never seen such poverty where so many people work so hard yet have so little, a place where every tiny bit of paper or even an empty plastic bottle is seen as a treasure. And yet I have never met kinder people where even strangers greet each other by grasping hands and pulling each other to their hearts with such sincere love and affection. Our planet is in such need of kindness like this. We in America sit safe in our homes so ignorant of the rest of our planet, or of the impact that our lives take on all of the living things around us. It’s not all about the politics and wars that we see on the news. All around our planet I have met good, kind, hardworking people who just want a way to work together for a better world. It’s in the hearts of the children I teach in New York and in the hopes and dreams of the children I have met in China. Children from the middle of the rain forest in Belize, children in remote villages of Russia and high school students in Uganda all talk of wanting to grow up in a world that is clean and at peace. They just need a way to reach out to one another. Their generation needs to find a way to fix what is wrong because our generation, especially in the most fortunate nations, has taken far too much for granted. Our world’s children are our planet’s greatest hope.
As I leave Uganda in two days Hilary and I need to thank its people for what they have given us. It seems so much more than what we were able to give in return.
With love, Bill