I was invited to visit with three grade 6 classes at a school in Richmond, Vancouver. I prepared a short DVD for the kids to introduce them to the orphaned children at ACIO Child Care Center in Uganda. The video discussed the daily lives of the children, where they live, sleep, what they eat, how their chores include fetching water from the well and collecting fire wood for cooking, how they bathe, their subjects at school, why they all have very short hair, etc, as well as what their immediate needs in life were at that very moment and ways in which we could all be helping them.
During the question period that followed one little boy asked “Why wouldn’t the children just build a cart and put 2 oxen in front of it and then they could fill a lot of water containers and bring them all back at once, instead of so many of them carrying one container at a time on their heads?”
“A great question, and a great imaginative idea too!” I answered. I tried to explain… Oxen are very valuable animals to own, and while there are some in the vicinity of these children, they are owned by people who rent them out for various purposes, most commonly, for plowing land before planting season. The center where the children live do not own oxen and they would not afford the expense of renting them to collect water that the children can fetch.
I went on… Another reason can sometimes be found in the understanding that imagination itself, is truly a gift. Many children I have met who are orphaned, especially those who are completely on their own, can be severly challenged in daily life, and in contrast to looking forward with imagination they may actually find themselves to be running a few days behind. Perhaps they have not eaten for a couple days, perhaps they are unwell physically, emotionally, perhaps they are unsafe, perhaps it is all they can do to focus on surviving today. I have learned, after addressing their most immediate needs, I can eventually help the children to open up to the idea of possibilities they may be able to discover if they take some time to consider life with imagination and innovation. Inviting the children to take some moments to dream about what could be and ways to achieve their dreams, begins by them understanding that it is even possible, it is even an option, in the first place.
It is a great gift in life to know we can change the course of our lives – it can, in fact, be considered a luxury. Some might call it “choice” or “hope”. And with that “hope” or by making that choice, mixed with some determination we can imagine, and create, and take steps towards the way we wish things to be. It starts first with the understanding that there are other possibilies that even exist, and, once a tummy is full and a body is healthy, safe and warm at night, once a Spirit is comforted, nurtured, and Love is shared, it is indeed, a most pure and exquisite light that shines from the eyes of a child who is beginning to realize this, maybe for the very first time!