So, this one is hard.
I’m at Panera Bread, writing next to the window, and outside it’s 87 and sunny, but I’m sitting right where the A/C pumps out, and so my nose is drippy. I’m cold. I have bumps all up my arms.
It’s 87 and sunny but inside, I am needing a sweater.
At the RUHU orphanage, the boys sometimes flip their clothes inside-out, so that they can wear an outfit for another day.
I fit right in.
One morning, little Pauline sits down next to me in the courtyard. She pinches at the cuffs of my pants, which are stained red from walking the roads.
“You are very dirty,” she says.
The next morning, I put on completely clean pants.
The children put me to shame with their clothes-washing. They are diligent, rubbing and scrubbing with soap and pouring water from the jerry cans to rinse. Then the clothes are hung on a line that stretches taut through the middle of the courtyard. It is a beautiful sight. I snap a photo of the line. Something in the colors captures me.
In the afternoon, we are playing Four Square in the courtyard. I do not know who taught the kids my childhood-favorite game, but I am glad to play with them. The best is that I don’t have to hold back. They’re good, so I play hard..
During a rowdy point, Julio swings his arm to hit the ball and whacks the clothesline. Underwear and shirts drop on his head and on the ground. Everyone laughs. They pick up the clothes and hang them back on the line. They continue on with the game.
This one is hard. It’s 87 degrees out and sunny, and I am too cold, inside a protected, insulated, nearly dust dirt mud-free Panera Bread.
And this has become an almost indispensable daily experience for me. It is a controlled environment. It is a portion of my daily bread.
I am afraid for that, for myself, for others. My daily bread is twisting. My daily bread is changing.
I am afraid, because deep down, I am a dirt-around-my-pant-cuffs kind of man.
I’m a flip-it-inside-out-for-Wednesday kind of man.
I’m a pick-my-underwear-out-of-the-dirt-and-hang-it-back-on-the-line kind of man.
The power is out for the night at the orphanage, and so the children are gathered in one room, eating spaghetti in the dark, except for a headlamp hanging from the wall.
In the next room over, the staff sit under a dim solar light that doesn’t even illuminate faces. I’m on a laptop with an Internet stick, trying to check my email. The Internet is crawling. Across from me, Patrick’s face is extra dark. He asks if I am okay.
“I am,” I say.
There is singing from the next room. It is the children. They have begun singing in the darkness. The drums are thumping. Darling Jesus, they are singing.
I close the laptop. I walk to the room with all the singing. It is what I need. We all pile in. It is hot and dark. We sing and dance in the small room.
Later, Caleb stands in the middle of the room, holding the headlamp. Caleb tells the story of Jonah. We are all in the belly of a whale.
So, this one is hard: my daily bread, my portion. I am twisting it. I am twisting it, and I am knowing this, and so I look to the children of RUHU. Their daily bread.
They have daily chores. They wash their clothes. They wash the little ones. They do schoolwork. They eat in the light. Sometimes, they eat in the dark. They flip their clothes inside-out. They wear two sandals. They wear one sandal. They run barefoot. They dance. They drum. They sing that they have Jesus. They have Jesus.
The children are the haves and the have-nots. They own and they are also missing; full and also lacking. But I tell you: they know daily bread. They know their portion.
When I am with them, I learn. I am humbled. I am a bit ashamed.
When I am with them, I learn.
“What is one thing you wish you could do every day?” I ask a few of them in the courtyard.
“Collect firewood,” one says.
“No no,” I say. “Like anything. A fun thing. A really fun thing. Something you love to do.”
“Pray. And sing.”
Every day. They cannot go without it.
If you get the chance, to stand surrounded by the kids of RUHU, while they pray and sing and dance, you will see. You’ll get it.
Pray. And sing.