First of all, I’m going to be an Aunt!!
I don’t have any kids so this is my first experience with this kind of thing, but I find it fascinating and overwhelming how much you can instantly love something, like a 6 week old fetus that isn’t even yours. My 20 year-old brother, Ben, woke up at the same time I did on Monday and stuck his head in my room and said, “Morning aunt Brookie” and I said “Morning uncle Ben” and then I told him he really needs to start learning how to make rice. He didn’t get it.
I can’t stop thinking about my Aunt Candy (who was killed in car accident 8 years ago this month) and how she must have felt when she found out my mom was pregnant with me. Sometimes when a person dies, we bronze the best characteristics and forget everything else. I’ve been accused of doing this because I can’t think of a bad thing about her. But aunts and nieces have a unique relationship. It’s like the benefit of a sisterhood without all the cattiness, or the benefits of a young, hip mom without all the authority.
I’ll admit I never totally understood why she loved us so much. I mean, I was sort of weird growing up and my brothers were total terrors. But she did—in that eyes-light-up kind of way. She took us messy places, like those pop-art boutiques (remember those?) and led us out to a field one day during spring break, when my brothers were bouncing off the hotel walls waiting to go to Opryland and my parents were totally stressed-out because Opryland was closed, to perform a naming ceremony like my brother’s had seen on Three Ninjas, and she gave us all ninja names. My name was clover. It was very serious.
She also called us at 6 am on our birthdays just to be first and mailed us tons of packages from Japan and France full of candy and little fireworks. Only aunts can send candy and fireworks to little kids, you know? She’s also the one who found my cats dead in the freezer while she was looking for extra mayonnaise because we’d run out and desperately needed mayonnaise on our sandwiches. I remember spending the night in her dorm room at Ball State when I was six and being so sad when I found out someone had stolen her bike. She was so nice. Obviously they didn’t know her.
When I was older, she called me after her first kiss with the love of her life to make sure I knew what it should feel like, to make sure I knew when I was ready. And in high school she tried to drive through, like, 3 states of tornados to make it to my graduation party as a surprise. She took Bryan on special trip to Florida once, just him, when he was about 7 or so. I never questioned the normalcy of those things or realized how special they were until I became an adult and wondered if I just “bronzed” the memories.
Now (in light of little baby wilson) I just want to wink at Candy somewhere in heaven and say, I knew it! You really did love us as much as I thought you did….
I received my nameplate from the Name Campaign this week. My little boy is Dennis, age 11. (The organization has collected the names of thousands of children abducted by Kony in Northern Uganda and has imprinted each name on a nameplate.)
Holding that little name in my hand, I can’t help but wonder where he is and what he is doing, how long he has been away from home, and whether or not God could please let Dennis escape and go back to his family, if they’re alive, or at least run to a safe haven. It reminds me to pray for him, and all the other kids, every chance I get and to tell others about his story and about the crisis.
It’s easy to hear a number like 20,000 or 30,000 and forget that those huge numbers are made up of individual kids. If you go to the site http://www.oneglobaltribe.org/ and click on campaigns, and then click on war-affected children, you can read about this campaign and even see drawings by child soldiers that will break your heart, and then, hopefully motivate a commitment to help.
It’s easy, and the site provides other things we can do, too. All profits from the sale of the nameplates go to Rachelle Rehabilitation Center, one of the only centers in Uganda that offers food, clothing, education, room & board, medical care and counseling to children who have escaped.
This is how the name campaign started:
I learned about the children of Northern Uganda in 2004. I couldn’t stop thinking about them. I had the idea for the Name Campaign but didn’t pursue it – until one night I woke up and KNEW I had to do something, even just take a tiny first step. At 3 am, I started researching any organizations I could find that might have a list of names of kids who had been abducted. I ended up with the phone number of Angelina Atyam, a woman I had seen on Oprah whose daughter had been abducted. I called her in Uganda right then and somehow managed to reach her. She was so lovely to me – a complete stranger calling out of the blue. I told her about the idea and she encouraged me to move forward. At the end of our conversation, I told her that I keep her daughter Charlotte in my thoughts and pray that she’ll come home one day. Angelina was quiet and then said “So you don’t know?” My heart dropped – I thought she was going to tell me that her daughter had died. Instead she said “I have just this day come from seeing my daughter for the first time in seven years. She escaped from the LRA yesterday.” She had thought I was calling her because I had heard the news – when in reality, I was calling her because I had heard (and finally listened to) the voice within that calls each of us to act. I was speechless from the synchronicity. I took it as a sign – to speak their names, tell their story, bring them home. To begin. And that’s how we started.
So anyway, today if you think of it, pray for Dennis.
…Father love is reigning over us, brother love binds man to man…