As I stepped off my moto and looked around, I was struck by the scenery that surrounded me. I saw trash littering the streets and huge potholes impeding the flow of traffic, hugely contradicting the clean and manicured city I thought I knew. “Is this really still Kigali?”
Confused and dazed, I began winding my way through this unexpected scene, down into the valley below the center of Kigali until I came across a little blue gate. Above the gate there was a sign that read: “Missionaries of Charity…Home of Hope, Kigali.” Pausing to take a picture of the gate, I walked through and found myself in a quiet, tidy little courtyard. After a few moments, I was greeted by a nun who led me into a long hallway lined with doors.
The first door yielded a room lined with cribs. As I gazed around the room, I was greeted by the profiles of about twenty silent infants who gazed back up at me in solemn regard. Closing the door behind us, the nun led me into the next room which was brimming with noisy toddlers running around laughing with mirth. Pausing briefly to pat a few heads and say a few words, we passed through an outer door and greeted some school-aged girls before walking down a flight of stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, the nun opened another door which yielded a similiar sight to what the first door had yielded–except this time with twin-sized beds. I soon learned that Home of Hope also houses impoverished adults, most of which suffer from some mental disability or another.
After a brief visit with these men and women, I found myself being led back up the stairs towards that strikingly blue gate. Unwilling to leave I was surprised to hear my voice ask, “May I stay and visit with the children for a bit?” Nodding in assent, the nun led me back into that noisy, toddler-filled room, where I was handed a bowl and told to begin feeding a blind, mentally handicapped boy his lunch. My heart broke as I fed this boy his lunch and realized that it was very unlikely that he would ever leave the orphanage, very unlikely that he would ever have a family to call his own. Despite the love and the tenderness that the nuns and the Rwandan workers have for him, I realized that he most likely doesn’t know what it means to loved or what it means to “belong.”
As I sat there feeding him, feeling little hands touching my arms and my legs, I began to understand the importance of “touch” and how it relates to love. It was a quest for love that drove those toddlers to reach out and touch me–and all it took was a touch on the arm in return and a smile to cause them scamper off smiling with glee. I realized that even though this little boy may never leave this orphanage or know what it means to belong, there was one powerful thing I could give him just by making an effort to touch him…and that powerful thing was Love.