This morning, as so many Christians celebrate the birth of a divine baby, I find myself reflecting on another child who intersected my life many years ago.
Not my beloved stepdaughters, who arrived later, but a Kenyan introduced to me during the AIDS outbreak.
Along with a plea for help.
As clerk, I was able to respond, that first year without the approval of the Meeting, which has fortunately followed. We’ve all been enriched as a consequence. In fact, I find myself viewing much of the world through her lens.
As I wrote to her, years later, through one of our more or less annual letters:
It’s been more than a few years since I’ve communicated with you, but you have been on my heart and mind all along, plus those of many other American Friends. You’ve met a few of them, and I’ve felt comfortable leaving you in their embrace, though I haven’t forgotten about you. Far from it. When they bring news of you, we’re always heartened.
Through all of this, you’ve been an inspiration to me. You have what we call grit, or courage, and a lot more. When I was working as a newspaper editor, I had a shortcut to two of your portraits on my computer desktop, yes, right there in the newsroom, and when things got especially rough, like I was about to do something unQuakerly, I’d click on it, and your smile and determination kept me going on the right track. Thank you, simply for being you.
Once, when a Nigerian official was walking through our office, he stopped by my desk and I told him I knew somebody very special in Africa and brought up your triumphant face.
His reply? Yes, she’s Kenyan, and he grinned in appreciation. I guess being Kenyan is something special.
We do live in a small world!
You have many reasons to be proud. And, yes, we Quakers can be proud (for the right reasons) as well as humble. (You can ask me about the humility part later, if need be.)
I feel very deeply you have greatness ahead of you, though it will never be easy. What I do know is that Jesus will always be at your side, as he has been through your hardest sufferings, even though you weren’t necessarily aware of it.
Now, take a deep breath! And, as we Quakers say, Mind the Light!
Yours in that love …