A few days to my birthday about two years ago and I had no wish to make any noise over it…wishful thinking as I‘d caught my friend whispering over the phone, inviting a few other friends over. It was a Saturday and around here in Naija, when your birthday falls on weekends; everyone expects you to celebrate with loud music, food and drinks add friends and family; nobody wants to know if you have the cash to throw a party, everyone just wants to know when to show up… I had no wish for that.
It isn’t that I don’t enjoy parties, by Jove. I do!
I just wanted to be pensive; having encountered a few things lately that sobered me. I was again confronted with the fact of how privileged I am. For instance, I had gone to an orphanage in my area to deliver items a friend sent me to give away on her behalf.
Being in my neighbourhood, I was aware a baby girl had recently been discarded like a used menstrual rag at the gate of the orphanage two days before; they didn’t immediately scoop her up like I thought they would. So I was in part anxious to see the child, to ask if any info had been got about her parents and if she was receiving adequate medicare. Thankfully, she was being taken care of after the police had certified that truly she was abandoned; the orphanage wouldn’t touch her until police gave the go-ahead.
In there, I saw kids, abandoned at will mostly by the very people who gave them life. They were eager, they were excited, they hugged strangers when they were introduced to visitors, they wanted to sit on my lap, they pulled me into their game shrieking with delight and watching to see if I was amused. They wanted to love and be loved.
The thought hit me, I could have been one of these kids and so I didn’t know whether to pity them or be thankful on their behalf. I could easily have been one of these – unwanted, yet full of love. What differentiates me from them isn’t just genes, it’s pure grace.
I remember my mother had told me years back that when I was born, I looked nothing human. I was extremely small, the size of a feeding bottle, she said.
‘You fit right into my palm’ I recall her saying. ‘Then you had hair all over, thick hair and very large eyes and you were curled up like a ball of hair. Your father didn’t think you were human and neither did I. It was your grandma, who counted your fingers and toes and declared you human. Even the nurses wouldn’t bathe you’
That’s the story handed over to me. In fact, my mother said my father was so scared she had given birth to some creature that he told her a few people had asked him to abandon me at the hospital and bail with my mother!
What if he had? What if my grandma had also been so scared of this ball of hair and declared me a taboo?
Anyway, I sought to find out more about this child left at the gate of the orphanage. I was pleased to see she had made progress in just a few days. There she was, little more than a year old but looking like a five-month-old child; she was still badly malnourished, the lice in her hair were now gone, the worms festooned on her open sores were gone and the wound had even begun to dry; her eyes were still wild with fear and maybe memories of hunger as she searched the faces that peered down at her.
‘She will be isolated until we have done all necessary tests.’ I was told by the nurse in charge of the kids.
After that, she would be handed over to the matron and can then mix freely with the other kids. Before that of course, she had been taken to see a pediatrician and was currently on antibiotics. But most of all she was being slowly fed. There’s hope, here, I thought.
When you read of a child of three years battling liver cancer; when you are asked to raise funds for a five-year-old with a hole in the heart; when you realise that the teenager who greets you every time you walk down the street may not live to be 20 because you see his jaundiced eyes.and his arthritic joints stiff from sickle cell disease; when you are told that the woman who’s barely 35 years and who has been waiting to have a child for the last seven years finally does, then dies from complications – you are humbled.
Then you want to give thanks to God.
To celebrate everyday because –
Every day is a miracle
Every moment, precious
Every opportunity, no matter how latent must be seized.
It was time to laugh and live more!