Playtime at the Orphanage in Africa

The late sun cast a glow of Oscar gold on the girls’ faces and on the fields of lush green crops behind them. Four or five of them sat in the patch of grass in a circle, legs crossed Indian style, each with palms up and slapping against the palms to their left and right in rhythmic beats to the song  they sang in Luo. Stella in her red dress, Lucky with those wide and gracious eyes, Pesca in her bright teal and pink with the spirit of an ornery five year old, Sarah shy in pink, and Eunice, soaking it all in from a distance. A chicken strode peacefully toward them but kept a safe distance in the dirt as the girls giggled and fell over at the end of each round. Faster and faster they slapped, keeping perfect cadence with their chants.

Scott was nicknamed “the tree.” He is tall, about 6’4″. The kids loved to play chase with him.  He ran towards them with a loud “ROOAAARRRR”, long arms outstretched wide to catch them as they laughed and screamed and tried to run away; a group of them scattering and laughing, and then reconvening for protection and then scattering again as he sped closer. They never tired of taunting him so he would chase them. He never tired of their joy, the squeals and smiles of contentedness.

Pappa T, who glows with an aura of boyish charm and meeknees, climbed to the top of the mattresses stacked in the main hut, “surfing” on them. Several of the boys followed him up there to make the stack sway even farther. Mamma Sylvia quickly scolded her husband, through a smile, for being a bad influence; but we couldn’t help but laugh. It was funny to see a grown man being mischievous and trying to get away with it. He did.

Gymnastics really gets them going. Cartwheels, somersaults, and rolls…but no-one could top the boy who can walk several feet on his hands!

On one of the last nights we were there, I pulled Eunice aside. She’s a thinker and a learner. “Let me teach you a game,” I said. We sat facing each other in the warm glow as the sun made its final decent behind the corn. “Palms up.” I showed her the clapping rhythm: right, clap, left, clap, clap, back, front, clap, to be repeated throughout the song.  Then I taught her the lyrics as I learned them when I was a girl:

Say say oh playmate,

Come out and play with me!

And bring your dollies three,

Climb up my apple tree!

Slide down my rainbow,

Into my cellar door!

And we’ll be jolly friends,

Forever more, more,

More, more, more, more !

The other girls wanted to play too, so several of us paired up to teach the clapping game. Eunice caught on quickly with the rhythm but struggled a bit to remember the English song. I took out my journal, the one with the peach colored lined pages adorned with butterflies and flowers, and wrote down the words. She smiled brightly and I could see the wheels turning. “Now this is your job,” I said, tearing out the page and handing it to her, “to teach the other girls. When you sing the friendship song, you will remember that even though we live on the other side of the world, we will be friends forever.” She was beaming, her smile emanating a glow of companionship. She took the paper and got up to go practice by herself.

On the last night, after the goodbyes were sung, Eunice found me in the dark courtyard and pulled me into the light powered by the generator. She was ready to show me that she had memorized the song. Shy, and afraid to start, I said, “I’ll sing with you.” We sang and clapped together with perfect rhythm. “Friends forever,” she said with a hug that will stay with me for a lifetime. “Friends forever,” I said.

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live” NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble





Be Real…

I wish a salesman, when pitching his product, would be brave enough to say: “Here are the pros, here are the cons; make your decision.”

I wish men would stand up and get mad about being portrayed as stupid in commercials, movies, TV shows, kids programming and radio ads.

I wish that the people who believe in God would be brave enough to refer to him as God, instead of chickening out and referring to Him as the Universe.

I wish there was a law that all politicians, from the school superintendent to the President of the United States, had to tell the complete truth in campaign ads. No manipulation or twisting the facts to suit you.

I wish that during their campaigns, politicians would be brave enough to say, “Here are my strengths, here are my weaknesses, here are my indiscretions, here are my successes, here are my failures; I would like your vote if you’ll have me.”

I wish people of all religions, but especially Christians, would be brave enough to talk about and stand firm in the parts of their doctrine that are confusing, contradictory, or that is just plain ‘out there.’

I wish people of all religions, but especially Christians, would be brave enough to say, “here are the strengths, here are the weaknesses.”

I wish I could replace the word ‘wish’ with the word ‘hope’ in this post.

I wish people would take responsibility for their thoughts and behavior and stop blaming other people.

In regards to abortion, I wish people would stop saying, “it’s her body.” There is not an extra arm growing inside her uterus.  It is a completely different set of DNA; which is not her body.  It is her child’s body, growing inside her body. Which is why you are charged with two murders, not one, if you kill a pregnant woman.

I wish that as a society, we would stop talking out of both sides of our mouth.

I wish that parenting classes were mandatory.

I wish it was cool to swing on a swing after 40.

I wish Christians would be brave enough to follow the example that Jesus set for us when He was here.

I wish men and women would concentrate on being whole and complete before they marry and have kids.

I wish people would just be real.

I wish I was kidding.

Faith in Uganda and Rio the Rat

It was my turn to sleep in the dorms at the orphanage. There’s no electricity there. No convenient way to use the restroom. When the doors and windows clang shut, it is total blackout. My eyes bulged at the strain of trying to see my hand an inch from my face; I thought if I kept opening them wider and wider I might be able to see something.  But then I heard something I didn’t want to hear, the “eeh-eeh-eeh” sound of a rat, and I quickly decided that being in the dark was better. Not a good plan.

Our team of fifteen took turns over a three night period, staying in groups of three of four, and my group stayed the third night. Each of us stayed in a different dorm to spread the wealth, so to speak, amongst the kids. The children were over the moon with excitement to have the Americans for a sleepover. The dorms are concrete and brick buildings with metal bunk beds that are made-up military style every morning the minute the kids get out of bed. The floors are mopped twice per day. The rooms are immaculate.

Has your child ever left food in his or her room? Yep, mine, too. Rest assured, kids putting food under their bed is a world-wide epidemic. Kids are kids no matter where you go. Earlier that morning, Stacy had mentioned that the dorm she stayed in had a rat in it. I was in the same dorm, with the same rat, and now I had a sinking feeling I knew the problem. There was a plate of rice and beans under the bed next to mine.

Before we went to bed, we played games and then Mamma Lucy and the eight beautiful girls sang songs, danced, clapped their hands and prayed ferociously to Jesus for protection, while giving unabashed thanks for the abundance they have been given, and praising him with pure joy. My feelings of unworthiness kicked in as I listened and watched. When the flashlight was turned off, and I lay in complete darkness, I was terrified.

Rio the rat made its way from the rafters down the wall, down the metal pole on my bed (I could hear its toenails clicking against the metal as it passed), and then across the end of my mattress by my pillow (pitter-patter pitter-patter, which sounded like thunder) and down to the floor to make its way to the rice and beans. Luckily it took a different route to go back up to the rafters. Up and down it went, ceiling to floor, across my bed, mere inches from my head. I thought about turning on the flashlight but what if it was big? What if it had a long tail? What if it wasn’t a rat? I decided to stay in the dark.

I began to yell at God in my head: ‘REALLY?!! If you are the Creator of all things, then you talk to that rat of yours and tell it to take another route down the wall!!! Make it go the other way!! Are you kidding me?? Does it really need to use MY bed as a freeway??’ On the rat’s 20th trip across my bed, it became apparent that God was not going to answer my “prayer.”

I was stiff as a board in my bed. Rigor mortis was setting in. I clutched my purse so hard it made an indent in my chest. I made myself as small as I could to take up less space; the theory was to be out of the way of the rat so it wouldn’t get caught in my hair. I listened to the girls snoring away in their beds without a care in the world. No restless moving around, just completely relaxed. “Why aren’t you listening to me?!?!” I screamed in my head. “I want to sleep, too!! I need my sleep!! I have a long day tomorrow!! You talk to that thing and make it go away!! I know you can!! I know you have the power!! Why are you making me go through this?!?!”  I was so mad at God I would have punched him right in the face if he would have shown himself to me.

My heart was pounding, my breathing was labored, I couldn’t move. I was in FEAR. For HOURS. And my bladder was full. No way was I getting up.  At some point in the night, the goat out in the corn field decided to make some noise: they sound exactly like a man being murdered. It’s a God-awful noise. I almost laughed out loud. My night was complete.

Now that I’m back in my own home, with the lights on, I can see the clear picture of faith in the girls. They were putting their prayers into action. They behaved as if their prayers of protection were already being answered. They were peacefully at rest. One of the little one’s had told Stacy, “don’t worry, they don’t bite.” Yeesh.  Stacy slept fine, by the way. I, on the other hand, have had to take a serious look at my beliefs and get down on my knees in repentance.

I’ve had to admit that I’ve been talking out of both sides of my mouth. On one hand, I hear and agree that Faith is a verb; it is not blind or passive, it is active and aggressive, based on who God is. When the Israelites were being chased, they had to run into the water before God parted it. ‘Yes, yes,’ I say. ‘We must move in faith first, and then God will save us.’ But as my head was nodding in agreement, my body was standing on the shore with my arms folded across my chest, waiting for the sea of my problems to be parted before I moved forward.

I’ve done this with my marriage, my family, my job, my purpose in life, my relationships…any situation that I am a part of. I nod my head, ‘Oh yes, I believe God will take care of me,’ and then I stand still and wait on the shore for him to make the first move.

I was rigid with fear, sweating, waiting for God to take away the rat before I would relax. I didn’t sleep. I couldn’t relax because I didn’t believe. I didn’t have active faith. I wanted the rat to go away first, so I could SEE that I was safe, and then I could rest. This isn’t faith. This is pride.

Faith requires action from me. Instead of screaming and cursing God to take away the problem, I need to change the dialogue in my head to match what I say I believe. Proper faith would have allowed me to relax and sleep peacefully, knowing that God would protect me from the current situation. I needed to say, ‘thank you Father, for your protection. You’ve protected these girls, this orphanage, our travels to this place, and based on who you are, I believe you will protect me from this rat.’ That’s what I should have said. He did protect me. Nobody has been bothered by Rio. But I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t embrace it. And I paid for it with a miserable, sleepless night.

The bed I slept in is the bottom bunk in the middle of the second  picture 🙂 The first picture shows the girls of faith: Helen, Eunice, Anna, Rose, Pesca, Stella, Lucky, and Sarah.

–Tara Schiro is the author of “No Arms, No Legs, No Problem: When life happens, you can wish to die or choose to live” NOW AVAILABLE on Amazon and Barnes and Noble