Reflection Sunday in Uganda: It’s a Love Thing

Tap, tap, tap. “Good morning, Ma’m.” I struggle to wake, remembering the last time I was awakened from a deep sleep in Doha, only this time I’ve no sense of alarm. All is as it should be. The rain is falling, I’m in my cozy potato-shaped bed, and I’ve managed to sleep in after a late night.

Tap, tap tap. “Good morning. I have your Dawa Tea.” Tap, tap, tap. I find my way out from underneath the mosquito netting and open my door.

It’s Clarkson. A slight, handsome man-boy who works at the Malakai Eco Lodge, making sure I have what I need to stay healthy. We’ve shaken many hands, exchanged many hugs. Last night, several of us were feeling congested. They tell me this tea, concocted from ginger, lemon, honey, and other spices, is essential to staying healthy, so I thank him and ask him to wait while I find him a tip.

It will take me some time to find my money so I tell him I’ll come down later and bring it. I’m writing, I explain. Of course, he agrees. Unbidden, he tells me he will sit down with me and tell me his story. He is an orphan, he says. I’d very much like to hear your story, I say. And I would. I hope there’s time.

Today is a day for resting. After two days of non-stop activities, we have the morning to ourselves. I had planned to experience church in Uganda with Elly this morning (he’s Anglican), but my brain is a waterlogged sponge. I need to wring it out. I need to write. We’re scheduled to visit the market today at noon and then go to dinner at Elly’s house. Tomorrow and every day next week is packed. 

So this is it. My shot to convey to you this incredible thing that’s happening to me. I call it a love thing.

It began on the plane to Doha. The flight attendant, Jacqueline, was unusually nice to me – nicer to me than to those around me. It continued on the plane to Entebbe and all the way through customs. Here at the Malakai, it continues, too. The servers know my name. Last night, one of my fellow travelers said, “They all love you!” The woman who guards my room key when I leave, who serves us, said in explanation,”She’s my friend!” I am that.

The first day, we visited Bukulasa Agricultural College. As I looked out at the students (we were at a table facing them), I made eye contact and smiled,  particularly the ones whose faces showed distrust. Many of them warmed and would smile back. After lunch, their presentation, and a large group photo, I was swarmed by a group of at least 15 young women who wanted to take selfies with me. Repetitively. In some small measure, I began to understand how it must feel to be a well-known actor. When I got on the bus they followed me. What is this thing, I wondered?

Then yesterday we traveled three and a half hours to a village near the banks of the Nile River – I’ve forgotten both the branch of the Nile and the name of the village for now. It’s the home of Denis, a young Ugandan Changemaker upon whom Cedric, Roots-Africa’s leader, relies in-country.

It was cooler there at 3,500′ elevation. They grow coffee and pumpkins and a lot of other things. Denis told us it’s the poorest region of Africa. Surprisingly, we saw none of the trash we saw closer to the cities, and there were even some brick homes with glass windows. The landscape was lush. The greenest of green, although it won’t be, once the rainy season ends. The love thing was there, too.

I am drawn to the women and children here. Several in particular. Winnie and her brother, Frank. Little Sophie. Possessed of a winsome Julia Roberts smile, Sophie may be five.  She looked up at me in a way my grandchildren have grown out of. She stroked my arm and then draped both of my  hands over her shoulders, leaning back against my legs. From time to time, she’d look up with that beautific smile.

“I thought you were going to adopt that little girl,” Cedric said later. I wondered if her mother might have worried about the same thing. She called her away, but Sophie found her way back.

After lunch nearby, an older girl flung herself into my arms (and the arms of the rest of our group). “I love you!” she exclaimed. “I’m so happy you came!” What is this thing, I wondered?

“You were the only white woman there,” supposed one of my companions on the long drive back. “You had that going for you.” That was true. In a remote, poor African community, I was a novelty, a shiny thing, but I don’t underestimate the desperation of a people – children too – who want more than they have. More food, attention, hope, and more love.

Despite these motivators, I’ve decided that the real thing is love. They are like moths to a light, drawn to me. When I look at them, I see them. I am focused on and am interested in them. I listen. I speak. I smile. I am an earthly vessel of a greater love that is spirit, not flesh. That’s what this love thing is. And perhaps most amazing is that as I offer it to others, I feel it too.

Postscript: talking with my friend Ron, he gave me a broader perspective that I want to pass on. These posts are very much intended to present thoughts that you can mull over. Ron suggested that there is no new energy. It exists and is reflected – for good and bad – where we direct it. He asked, how dusty is your mirror? What are you reflecting?

Great question. Here, I feel like my mirror’s pretty shiny, but when I’m home, frankly, it’s a little dusty. What would life in Boise be like if I approached people like I do here? Focused, interested. Listening intently. With lovingkindness. Something for me to think about. Something for all of us to think about.


  1. Wonderful blog Teri. Thank you for sending. Enjoy your experience. 
    div>Linda Hartgen 
    Sent from my iPhone
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  2. The trip of enlightenment! Soak it all in and store it so it’s with you forever!
    Your insight is good for all of us!


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