Getting Off the Bus

You may notice that Stories in the Street looks a little different. What would have taken me weeks to accomplish took my daughter a day. You can now easily access specific stories, posts relating to Rebeka or the adoption or travels, by clicking on that word under the book header. You can get to the beginnings of those stories, or see the posts written during our trip around the world in 2007-2008, by going to the links on the right sidebar.

Looking at these stories from a distance, I can see things I couldn’t see while in the middle of them. There is one thing they all seem to have in common; the idea of “getting off the bus.” You can see this literally in one of the most recent stories. Two months ago, we were getting ready for our trip to Rwanda. While there with our team of thirty, we traveled in a bus each day to various locations. Often we were traveling to visit a sponsored child. When we arrived at our destination, the sponsor family would get off the bus and walk off with a translator to find the house, while the rest stayed behind.

It was such an a amazing experience, getting off that bus filled with cameras and water bottles and people who spoke English, a little bubble of westernization, and visiting our sponsored kids’ homes. To sit on a makeshift bench or the floor, the only light streaming through the windows because there was no electricity.

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No home had more than two rooms, separated by a curtain. No home had a working toilet. They were so remote, I marveled at how our bus found them. For our visit with Javinvier, the bus stopped near some stores. We got off and walked past the buildings, down a hill, over a small stream, past piles of banana trees and a few rotting piles of trash, then back over the stream on a rickety bridge, through the gate of a fence made from plants, and we were there.

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We gathered around a small fire outside, listened to his grandmother speak of her love for her grandson and the small child she’s recently begun to care for. And we hugged her, and our boy Javinvier, who has grown so tall and works so hard at school.

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We took family pictures with mamas and siblings and aunties and uncles, and began to understand the impact sponsorship was having on the entire family. This child was learning to read, to speak English, to do math and science and understand the bigger world outside their dirt walls, and we were now part of their big family in a way. The distant relatives from over yonder, across the ocean.

Ruth has lots of brothers and sisters. She is shy but is getting braver, trying out her English with us.

Ruth has lots of brothers and sisters. She is shy but is getting braver, trying out her English with us.

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Annet was the first girl we ever sponsored. She sang us a song with her older brother, she is a beautiful young woman with a bright future. Rebeka got to meet all our sponsored kids, her wide eyes taking it all in.

David lives with his grandmother. We remembered her strong hugs and big smiles from our last visit.

David lives with his grandmother. We remembered her strong hugs and big smiles from our last visit.

Esdori isn't much for smiling for pictures. He is shy but kind, his smiles are gifts.

Esdori isn’t much for smiling for pictures. He is shy but kind, his smiles are gifts.

It's amazing to meet the people who care for our sponsored kids. This is Violet's auntie.

It’s amazing to meet the people who care for our sponsored kids. This is Violet’s auntie.

We got to hold new babies.

We got to hold new babies.

Sweet Violet has a tender heart, and a persevering spirit. We pray big things for her.

Sweet Violet has a tender heart, and a persevering spirit. We pray big things for her.

These visits were joyful and teary and filled with hugs and holding hands , but it wasn’t always our turn. When the bus stopped for someone else’s home visit, we had two choices. I had two choices. I could lean my head against the window and gaze at the curious crowd gathering outside, feeling shy or tired or overwhelmed. I could take notes in my journal, stay removed. Or I could get off the bus.

Getting off the bus took effort. There were hands to hold, songs to sing. It was hard to communicate sometimes. This was the opportunity to make a fool of myself as I did the hokey pokey or acted out an animal for them to guess, oinking to make them laugh. It was the smiles I was going for. Those beautiful smiles. They were worth getting off the bus.

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And the hands. They want to touch you. Look at you. Examine your arm hair. They want to be the one who gets the coveted spot right next to you. If you sit, they want your lap. They are needy and eager and most are totally uninhibited.

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Getting off the bus, I was soon engulfed in a sea of children, and as I looked around I saw the muzungus had spread out, little islands of white in seas of dark bodies, each a little microcosm of love and affection, if only for a moment.

The kids were both terrified and in love with the puppets one team member brought.

The kids were both terrified and in love with the puppets one team member brought.

It was hard to step off the bus sometimes, but it was good. Getting off the bus, being brave, being present, is so very good.

Blessed by a sticker, the kids love them.

Blessed by a sticker, the kids love them.

Each day I have the chance to “get off the bus.” I can be brave and send out that manuscript or write that new story. I can let go of dignity and comfort and be vulnerable to get to know someone better. I can sit around the virtual fire of a coffee cup and take time to talk. And I can hold a hand. All it takes is the ability to see the opportunity, take a deep breath, get off the bus and step into story.

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