Saturday, January 12, 2008

The 100th good thing about Lagos: People with kind hearts that inspire me to be a better person

It's taken me a while to get back to the blog -- holiday season with everything that comes with it can be consuming. Being together with children and grandchildren at home in Houston was great -- and life in Lagos seemed far away. But it's feeling closer now as I'm counting down the hours and making final preparations to leave the house and get supplies purchased and bags packed. This past week I've followed with interest a little drama that has been detailed through emails from some women in the American Women's Club in Lagos. One day while out and about they noticed a particularly forlorn girl sitting by a roadside clutching a piece of fabric around her body. When she had not moved after several hours, they felt impressed to help her. They went home and gathered some clothes and some food and went to her. They knew she was hungry when she took a hot boiled egg and bit into it without peeling off the shell. The next egg, they made sure to peel before they handed it to her! They showed her how to peel the banana they offered. She layered on all the clothes they offered to her, even wrapping a skirt around her head as a headdress, but she still didn't speak to them. They remarked that after they returned to check on her several hours later, she looked like a new person, but she still hadn't moved. They surmised that she had probably been abandoned and went about trying to find a place for her. After a lot of phone calls, they were able to find one of the AWC charity organizations that could make a temporary place for "Missing" (the name by which they referred to this homeless woman). The ensuing days led to lots of time spent on the phone, with agencies and at police stations and embassies. They learned that she is not a young teenager, as they had first guessed from her appearance, but that she was 19 or 20 and had already given birth to one child and was pregnant with another. They found that she spoke a Togolese dialect (for a long time she wouldn't speak at all), but after visiting the Togo embassy and then the Ghanian embassy (after the Togo embassy said she was from an tribal area that was in Ghana), both said she was not their problem. She spent nights in several charity organizations (one woman ended up buying a mattress for the first agency after "Missing" wet the bed repeatedly). After learning of "Missing's" incontinence, one woman wrote in that she should be tested for a fistula, which is a problem that can occur after childbirth especially in young girls whose bodies are not ready to carry children. She worked with a charity that sponsored surgery for young women to repair their bodies and change their lives by allowing them to return to society. Anyway, after days with many long hours working on this, they finally found a place for "Missing" to stay in a home and Lagos State accepted responsibility for her care and welfare. They surmised that possibly she had been brought in as househelp and discarded when she was found to be pregnant. Through many email updates, I was continually amazed at the lengths these women with very kind hearts were willing to go to find a place for this forlorn girl/woman. As I responded in an email to them:

"While reading all this, a New Testament scripture came to my
mind: "For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat; I was thirsty, and ye
gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed
me; I was sick and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me....
Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my [sisters], ye have
done it unto me." "Missing" seems to fit the part of "one of the least of
these." Thanks to all of you for your charitable hearts and example to me
of Christlike service. You are God's hands on earth. You are
inspiring me to be a better person."

While this drama was unfolding in Lagos, a different drama was going on here in Houston, as a stalwart Symphony chorus member and friend was killed last Monday in a tragic automobile accident. Sally was a social ringleader in the chorus -- beautiful, vibrant, creative, bold and with a huge smile -- about as much of a contrast to "Missing" as can be found. I have been feeling so sorrowful about this tragedy, but I was glad to be in town to attend the chorus rehearsal on Tuesday night where we remembered Sally and sang for her and mourned together. And today it was a healing experience to sing in a fabulous 100+ member choir at her memorial service. Along with the Symphony Chorus, Sally had sung in other professional choruses in the Houston area, so she had lots of choir friends needing to sing to celebrate her life. During the service, as there were spoken remembrances of Sally's spirit and personality, I was reminded of the possibilities each of us have to touch the lives of others.

An affirmation that the congregation spoke at Sally's funeral today touched my heart:

"We are convinced that the life God wills for each of us is stronger than
death. The glory of that life exceeds our imagination, but we know we
shall be with Christ; so we treat death as a broken power. Its ultimate
defeat is certain. In the face of death we grieve; yet in hope we
celebrate life. Nothing, not even death, can separate us from the love of
God in Jesus Christ our Lord."

I don't know if I would have been courageous and generous enough to take on the immense challenge of finding a home for a woman left discarded on the roadside. And I certainly haven't touched lives in the same way as did Sally. But through these experiences this week I've gained a greater resolve to share more and care more, to be a better friend, to be more charitable and giving. I hope that in 2008 I'll do something that will make a difference in the lives of others.

But, for now, it's time to get back to packing and weighing the bags to see if anything else can fit in my weight allowance, cleaning and organizing and getting ready to leave the house. More later from Lagos!

No comments: