November 11, 2004
Janette and James
Janette and James come to our Ndirande session for the handicapped each Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes they are a little late because they have to walk quite a distance. Or rather, Janette has to walk –she carries James on her back. Janette is 12 years old; her brother, James, is 10, but he is about the size of an American 5-year old.
Both of the children are always impeccably dressed. One day Janette had on a gold and white satin dress with lace trim. James looked spiffy in a polo shirt, tan trousers, grey socks with yellow airplanes on them, and black loafers that were brightly polished.
We are not sure what is wrong with James. He may have had what the missionaries call brain malaria or encephalitis, but it is probably cerebral palsy. He has almost no control of his body. He can’t walk or use his arms and hands. He drools.
But he is loved. I watched Janette dip a piece of bread into her hot tea, then she blew on it to cool it down, and then she placed it in James’s mouth. She probably spends most days when she is not in school taking care of her younger brother. The tenderness and patience she demonstrates takes my breath away. She bears a heavy load (literally and figuratively).
Janette has such a sweet disposition, though. She really enjoys the craft projects we do. She is one of the few children who helps us clean up. You will see her bending over, with James still slung on her back, to pick up a colored pencil. She is very serious, but we try and get her to laugh or smile each week. James, on the other hand, loves to smile. When I take his picture and then show it to him, he grins broadly. Sometimes I wonder how their lives would be different if they lived in America or Europe.
Whenever I am having what I consider to be a bad day, I think of Janette and James. It makes me rethink my day and count my blessings.