Wednesday, July 14, 2010

A Dad's Gift

"You have a nice home," I said.

"Not really," he replied, his tone matter-of-fact but laced with a hint of sadness. We were spending some time visiting the homes of children in the Hope Alive program. This was the fifth house, and the first time we had encountered a father. Usually it was a mother or the older sibling heading a household. His home was nice, relative to so many others; I hadn't been transparently trying to flatter him. The house looked like many in this poor area of Masaka; the roof was made from tin shingles and the walls from maybe some native bricks and the floor was concrete. But there were no chickens running around inside or posters taped up on the walls, and the floor was swept clean. It was spacious, there were at least three rooms and the couches were very worn but comfortable, and they even had a tiny TV.

Ronald spoke of how difficult things had been lately since he was out of work. His wife occasionally worked as a cook, which brought in some money, but he still was very concerned for their situation. Several times he said the words, "I just want to provide for my family." I wanted to do more than listen. I wanted to say that he was doing so much already just being there for them. That he was doing a great job for his kids, and that as they grow up they will benefit immensely from having had a dad. So many kids in Uganda may have a father, but he is often absent, for every reason from not wanting to be involved, to having found another family, or having passed away, or having to live in another place for a job. Ronald is providing, and I wanted to tell him that. But for that time, it was best to just let him share.

His darling daughter, a primary student who wore a pink dress and had greeted us with a hug, waved goodbye as we set off for the next home. She's a lucky girl, and I hope one day she realizes that. Her name, by the way, is Gift.

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"I think this is when most people give up on their stories. They come out of college wanting to change the world, wanting to get married, wanting to have kids... But they get into the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can't see the distant shore anymore, and they wonder if their paddling is moving them forward. None of the trees behind them are getting smaller and none of the trees ahead are getting bigger. They take it out on their family, and they go looking for an easier story."
-Donald Miller