We pull over so Uncle Seka can buy some charcoal, and I see them. Right there on the side of the highway, somewhere in Northern Uganda, a boy with tattered clothes, dark skin, and a bright white smile. Nothing out of the ordinary, but something in my gut is telling me not to pass him by. I need to talk to him, and I don’t think that’s all. The need to talk to him is welling up inside of me and I feel like I’m about to explode. I smile and wave through the dark window of the bus, but I know it’s not enough. I decide to just make everybody mad as I jump over their luggage and stretched out limbs, making my way from the back of the bus to this boy.
“Hallo! How are you?” I say in my best Ugandan accent. (I’ve found that I’m really difficult to understand if I don’t use a fake accent…)
“What is your name?”
“My name is Natalia! I’m so happy to meet you! How old are you?”
“Wow! Which class are you in?”
“Wow! Very good. Robert, where are you shoes?” I ask, knowing very well the answer and what would come next.
“I don’t have.”
Ugh. I’ve asked God to not let me grow numb to poverty, and I think He’s answering my prayers. My heart is breaking for this boy.
My heart skips a beat as I say “Robert, wait here.” I walk to the window of the bus.
“DOUGLAS! Help me with my shoes. They’re inside my backpack.”
He pulls them out, gives me a knowing look and says “Natalie, no….” but hands them to me anyway. I think he’s learned not to question the crazy things I do.
I walk back to Robert, brand new pair of TOMS in hand and say “For you. God bless you, Robert,” and walk away. There’s a mixture of laughter and shocked stares from the people around, but I try to make my get away before any appreciation or glory is sent my way.
I don’t deserve any glory for that…not from Robert or his family or even from you. I, my sinful flesh, didn’t want to give away my cute new TOMS! But something IN me is much stronger than my flesh. I pray that the Spirit of God always wins out over my own desires. There is no reason that I should have multiple pairs of shoes to match all my outfits, while Robert walks around in the bush barefoot. Robert is just as important and loved by God as me, or you or Billy Graham or the president. So WHY should he be disregarded as just another poor African kid? No, Robert is the son of the King of kings. Who am I to cling so tightly to a pair of shoes in light of this God who is so highly exalted, but meets us right where we are, whether you’re a business man or a senator or kid somewhere in Africa? God is so big and so good and so worthy of all that we can give, new shoes included.
Webele nnyo nnyo (thank you so so much) to my anonymous friend who sent me that TOMS gift card a few months back. I hope you are okay with the fact that I gave away your gift! Robert needed those shoes much more than I did! With every purchase, TOMS gives away one pair of shoes to a child in need…but your purchase gave TWO pairs! Isn't God so COOL?! :)