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Wandering Star

There in their home

ZIMBABWE | Saturday, 3 May 2014 | Views [449]

When she smiled at me for the first time, my stomach twisted and something rushed up into my throat that made me feel like I was choking. I blinked and realised my eyes were wet. Not the emotion I was hoping for.

'Shap!' she said to me, lifting her tiny charcoal hand up towards mine. Her hand was clenched and just her thumb protruded out the top, making a 'thumbs up' sign. I had heard this many times before in the townships - 'shap' was actually 'sharp', it just sounded different with a Xhosa accent. Kids used the sign and the word as a token of understanding and welcoming, almost to let you know that they approved of you being there. There in their home.

'Shap!' I said back, joning my thumb with hers. She giggled and reached up to pull on my hair. For some reason, the children loved playing with my hair. I guessed it was because it was a different colour and texture to theirs. Suddenly, there was a gaggle of them around me, tugging on my shirt, wrapping their tiny arms around my legs. I sat down to be closer to them. The little girl with the smile immediately climbed into my lap, her fingers still laced in my hair. And as I touched their skin and they touched mine, we bonded. We giggled and high fived and hugged, me and the dozen toddlers, and I felt so content I could have stayed there forever. There in their home.

But, just under the surface, that horrible feeling stood firmly in my throat, its moat in my eyes. I longed for it to leave me alone to be swept up in the happiness of the children's laughter and the beautiful innocence of their smiles. But it wouldn't. I felt desperate and anxious. I wanted nothing more than to take them all with me, to fill them with love and good food and give them the lives I felt they so deserved.

Music started to play from outside the school and almost on cue, they all jumped up. Singing along to the tune, they shook their bums, stamped their feet and clapped in unison. The teachers came in, leading the dance and the energy elevated to an infectious level. Soon, the music could hardly be heard as the little voices drowned out the melody. Before I had time to decline, I was shaking my bum too, trying as best I could to keep up with the amazing rhythm of the kids. I was useless - out of time and absolutely clueless as to what move came next!

The little girl came over and held my hand. We danced together for a while, spinning and twisting, stamping and wiggling. She looked up at me and smiled again and I felt something shift inside me. My throat opened and my eyes dried. Lifting our arms for the chorus, I looked around at the colourful menagerie and realised that there really was no sadness here, only hope. There in their home, I too, was in mine.


Tags: africa, community, education, giving, hope, receiving

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