He was standing by the church waiting for me and as I started to leave he asked if he could walk with me. That was the beginning. Every day after that, he walked me to get a boda after programs. Every day at programs, he was always near me. We talked a lot. I found out he loved swimming, dirt bike races, school, marbles, dancing, everything any other 11 year old kid would love. I also discovered he was a hard worker. He was always looking for scrap to sell. Sometimes he would use his money to go swimming at the swimming pool, that is how much he loves to swim. Whenever we go swimming, he is the first boy in the water and the last to leave. One of the last times we went to the beach, he refused to get out and eventually I tired of giving him 5 more minutes so I told him I was leaving. He ended up chasing the taxi down as we were driving out of the parking lot, unfazed, those last minutes in the lake were worth it.
He is the youngest and smallest boy of the house. It causes him a lot of problems sometimes. He loves to talk, and it isn't always constructive, so he has found himself in some not good situations with the other boys and also with me. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in words. We are trying to teach the boys not to handle their problems with fighting, but old habits die hard. As a result, Richard and 2 other boys have formed a sort of coalition to stand up to the bigger/older boys. They usually just find themselves in more trouble because they are so spirited and will taunt the other boys until they are ready to riot.
However, Richard can also be very sweet. There have been plenty of times where he has shared his food with me (even when he was on the street), washed my feet, brushed my hair, or just sat and talked. He loves to make friends and loves attention. He can make you smile in an instant.
He was brothers with one of the other boys before he even knew it. One of the other boys that I first took responsibility for was John. When they were both on the street, they would fight and argue over who I liked more. I don't know what they were measuring this by, but each day, Richard would tell me something about John to ensure that I wouldn't love him more. It was really cute and definitely funny. It was obvious from the beginning what was going on. They were brothers in the making!
A lot of the boys struggle with the idea that even if one more is added, my love for them won't lessen. Richard really struggles with it. We have had lots of really rough times, many frustrated talks, many moments where I was ready to give up. With the other boys, it was difficult to build a relationship with them in the beginning. For some of the boys, I really worked at it and prayed and prayed and prayed. But not with Richard. In the beginning, it was easy to love him. He was cute and sweet, easy to get a long with, and he wanted a relationship. Since then, our relationship has been more strained while it has only gotten easier with the other boys. I am no expert or counselor, I don't really know what is going on.
But I can guess.
Sometimes the reality of being loved is too much. We think we don't deserve it, it will end, the person will just disappoint us, they can't really love us...I am sure you all can continue on with the list. I know I can.
It is difficult to remember the good times in the beginning with him. Don't get me wrong, I still love him so incredibly much but it is no longer easy and some days I admit I am ready to give up. But the truth is, God used Richard to make me stay in Uganda. The first time Richard walked me to the boda, a plan was set into motion. God planned it that way way before I had even met Richard or stepped foot in Uganda and He knew I would fall in love with Richard and choose to stay. Richard changed my life and consequently changed that of all of the other boys in the house. Regardless of the frustrations, Richard is a part of my heart and life that can never be removed.
And I would never want to.
|me and Richard when he was still on the streets|
|when he was still on the streets|
|Richard in the home|
|Richard at school on no uniform day|