When I came to Uganda, I figured that my heart would be broken many times, every day even. There have been times over the last 3 years that I thought my heart would never heal. Some of the boys have made epically bad choices and ripped my heart out as a result. But each time my heart has healed and we moved on. Even though I know these boys are broken and hurting, even though I know that as a result they will hurt me, there is nothing that can prepare me for the heartache that they give me sometimes.
This week has been difficult. On Monday, I was already ready to call it quits on the week. My greatest fear is that I am breaking these kids further instead of helping them to heal. One of the boys made a mistake last week and everyone was furious at him. He ended up running away because he knew we were all angry. My policy is to never chase a boy down. It sounds harsh, but these boys are all old enough to know the consequences of their choices and if they don’t want to be at home, we let them go. As a result, they always come back and have a different attitude than when they left. When they are gone, those are the longest days of my life. I miss them every second, but I know that it is what is best. This boy stayed gone all weekend and we were just waiting for him to come back. Sunday night, my laptop went missing. At first I thought it was one of the boys because they were watching a movie earlier, so I didn’t panic. A little bit later, I was awoken by one of the boys telling me to move my computer because someone was just in the compound. When I told him my computer was already gone but I thought it was one of the boys, he panicked and started checking with the other boys.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be true that someone had broken in and stole my laptop. Our first instinct was that it was the boy that ran away because he was still staying around the neighborhood just not with us. So the uncle and boys went to find him. Turns out, he wasn’t the one but at least he was finally home.
When we discovered it wasn’t him, we all knew who it was and my heart broke. We had been letting a boy come and stay at the house every once in a while. I have known this boy since I first got to Uganda and the uncle even longer. I love this kid so much and was just wondering how to help him. Monday morning, our suspicions were confirmed. It was in fact him. The worst was he brought two other boys to the house to rob us. They were going to take other things but all they could get was my computer because I left it on my desk by the window while I went to talk to the other auntie. The good thing was we got the computer back but they moved so quickly, that everything had already been erased. (On a happy note, because they moved so quickly, all of the problems with my computer were fixed. Problems that I was told in the US couldn't be fixed without buying a new motherboard.) I am sad for my photos and my work but nothing compares to the ache I feel in my heart for this boy. We were probably his last hope. He has screwed up all of his other chances with other people and I was just hoping that it would be different with us. I don’t blame him for taking my computer. I can’t imagine his life. I have never been so desperate that I felt like my only option was to steal from one of the last people that still loved me.
The worst was when he came back to the house to apologize to me. Maybe he realized the consequences of his actions, maybe it was just an act. I don’t know. But his apology seemed sincere. He sobbed as he told me. He looked more broken than usual.
I don’t believe in giving up on people, especially these boys. But it is hard. So hard. To try and try and try and have the result be the same is defeating. It makes me feel like a failure and makes my heart feel like it can’t take anymore. I don’t know what we will do with the boy that stole the computer but I told him I still loved him and forgave him but we were all upset and just needed time. I am sure that this won’t be his last time to disappoint me, but still we will try again. After all, things are only things but people are people and his life is worth more to me than any photo or document.
When the boy that ran away came back, we sat down as a family to counsel him about his behaviors and encourage him to change. Like I mentioned before, sometimes I worry I am breaking these boys more than I am fixing them. As I sat in the meeting, watching a boy that I love so much hurting, I wondered if we actually broke him. He wasn’t the vibrant boy I knew, but just a sad shell. As one of the boys spoke, I was reassured that maybe we were doing more good than harm. He told him how lucky they were to be here because I know how to forgive. He told him that if he was in any other home, they would have chased him away by now but I keep giving him chance after chance because I love them all like they are my own children. At least he gets it. At least they know how much I love them and how much I am willing to fight and sacrifice for them.
Things aren’t really better, but I cling to hope. Hope that they will get how loved they are. Hope that this time it will be different. Hope that they will heal. Hope that they will change.