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Meeting Jean de Dieu


I selfishly extend my arms and legs across the bed in my small motel room in Rwanda. Yesterday, the bed looked great. Today, it appears 5 times too big. I know I haven't grown, yet somehow the bed feels different. Maybe it is just that I am actually appreciating it for what it is.

I met a boy today named John de Dieu. He is 8 years old and has a contagious laugh, one that caught me by surprise. He was painfully shy when I first introduced myself, not that I blame him. His family  rarely sees foreign visitors in their remote village, and most certainly has never had one pay a personal visit. 

I asked John what his favorite sport was, despite already knowing the answer: football. He plays with the other school children, fabricating the sports equipment out of dried banana leaves.  Very resourceful.

John's parents were delightful, especially his dad. He ran to get me a small wooden bench from the bedroom. We sat on it and chatted for a couple of hours, discussing his life here and my life in Canada. Neither himself, his wife nor his three children had ever heard of snow, and I relished the opportunity to describe sledding at Christmas time. The family asked a few questions and then started laughing. 

They explained that they also go 'sledding,' except in Rwanda they use dirt as snow, and banana leaves as their sleds. In the short while I have been here, I have witnessed MANY uses of banana leaves. They serve as footballs, sleds, roof coverings, umbrellas, animals feed, brooms and even mattress stuffers. That puts even duck-tape to shame. 

As I think back over my day in Rwanda, I can picture my little brother giggling as I take his photo and even more so as I hug him goodbye. I know he will like the new picture of his family that I will soon send from Canada. It will most likely be hung on the small string beside their kitchen, in their family room and over the small mat shared by 5 people. 

I think about this for a while and curl up on my bed. Suddenly I wish my bed were a little bit smaller.Before leaving John's house, I told him I was going to be his sponsor sister. I wanted him to know that the letters in and photos he would receive from Canada came from someone who cared about his life. I was happy that I had been able to meet him in his home. That way when I returned to Canada I would be able to picture him living life in Rwanda, chasing around a leafy ball at recess, sliding down muddy hills on a green sled... 

After several hugs and photos, John's father asked if I would like to see inside their house before leaving. I nodded. We entered a dark room. The coals on the floor told me it was the kitchen. The single photo hung by a frayed string told me it was the family room. The mat on the floor covered with dirty blankets told me it was the bedroom. I thanked him for the visit. He insisted I take their sole family photo with me- to remember them.

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Food for the Hungry: Meeting Jean de Dieu
Meeting Jean de Dieu
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Food for the Hungry
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