Hey Now! You’re an all star.
Get your game on. Go! Play
Hey Now! You’re a Rock Star
Get the show on. Get paid.
And all that glitters is gold.
Only shooting stars break the mold.
It is very rare that I hear that song these days. I used to hear it 30 times a day in the United States. It is the ringtone to my cellphone and mostly due to the cost incurred by me, I have asked people not to call me, unless necessary. But once in a while, I get a phone call and hear the catchy tune by Smashmouth, made even more famous by the Shrek movies.
I make myself titter when I hear that song. Wouldn’t it be fun to be famous? To be an Allstar or a Rockstar? Even a Moviestar? They get to go around and have people long just to touch their hands. Since I’m here in Africa, I keep having images of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie walking around with hordes of children grabbing at their sides.
But I’ve discovered something while being here in Africa. You don’t actually have to be a Star to have that kind of experience. If you go to remote parts of Africa and put out your hand to shake one kid’s hand, you will spend the next 5 minutes as 80 children flock just to touch you, thinking you are someone famous. (It probably helps if you wear sunglasses and have a color of skin other than black, though fancy clothes can do the trick too),
So… if you really longing for that “I-wanna-be-a-Star” sensation, and you don’t have any particular musical, athletic, or acting talents, just come to Africa. You’ll love it. As you are swarmed by mobs of little kids, you may even think, “I wonder how many exotic germs they are sharing with me? I’ll probably be dead before nightfall.”
“Would you like it if Mr. David came back?” Sr. Germaine says at St. Francis of Assisi School in Mitunguu.
“Yes!” The crowd of eighty sixth, seventh, and eighth graders chant back in a chorus.
“Well this has been a very important sharing for us today. It is important to have opportunities to share with one another like this.”
Sr. Germaine’s words leave me with a moment of pause, even as little school children surround me to touch my backpack, and my camera and my hands. Sharing? Is that what this is?
Sr. Germaine is an American nun, part of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, a religious order which I have spoken of three previous times in these blogs. Sr. Germaine is a good friend of my aunt, who is also a nun in the same congregation. I saw Sr. Germaine last in Germany where we made plans for me to visit her while staying in Meru.
In my life, I have remained in the shadow of many of the places that Sr. Germaine has worked over her life as a sister. St. John’s Pre-School, the Donaldson Motherhouse, and St. Henry’s orphanage in Chicago, near to where I now work. She was part of a brilliant system designed to support the orphanage in Chicago. The land around the orphanage was bought to serve as a Catholic Cemetery. The orphans learned agricultural science while living at the orphanage and used their acquired skills by caring for the cemetery plots.
“They closed down though because the orphans weren’t very good in their agricultural studies” I interrupt.
Sr. Germaine flashes a look to me as if to say, “This is my story. What are you talking about?”
“What do you mean?” Father Peter bites at my bait.
“Well… they kept on trying to grow PEOPLE by planting the DEAD ONES in the ground, but for some reason, no matter how much they watered the graves, nothing grew! The orphans were very confused.”
After a moment to realize that I am joking that planting coffins is the same as planting tulips, Sr. Germaine retorts, “David, you’re too much.”
At an age when most religious workers have retired, Sr. Germaine is busy as a bee helping to build, and maintain, the school at St. Francis of Assisi. If you have downloaded Google Earth onto your computer, you can view my pictorial of the parish by clicking here.
My time with the students at St. Francis of Assisi amazed me, even as I am beginning to repeat the same pattern over and over again. I introduce myself to the students, I talk a little, and then a few shy hands pop up and ask an embarrassed question. But as I return their timidity with sincerity, curiosity spreads like a fire, “What about the church in Vietnam? What is it like in Rome? Does Senator Obama really have a chance to win the presidency of the United States?”
This is the sharing to which Sr. Germaine earlier referred. It is an experience I have frequently when meeting with school kids. As we learn more about each other, there is a veil that is lifted from our isolation. We used to think that we were alone, but now we realize, that there are others in the world just like us, and they share our struggles and share our concerns. When we become conscious of our solidarity as Christians, life changes. Hope surges within us. Our daily tasks find meaning. We become neither dominant nor dependant, but interdependent, flush with an energy that pulses through us, with us, in us.
It is a feeling…. like being an Allstar.