Our translator nudged him.
“Edmon, look up.”
He’s shy. And his eyes wander all over the known ground. His glances travel everywhere but to my eyes.
“Is he shocked that I am a woman?”
I go ahead and unpack the elephant that I carried in my heart from Colorado to Uganda. Edmon is expecting to see his sponsor. The thing is, I am his sponsor.
I think I might have the most awkward “meeting my sponsored child story” recorded. And that’s the way I like it.
When Jeremy, my husband, sponsored Edmon 6 years ago, he had not yet met me. So Jeremy is Edmon’s sponsor. When we got married, we wrote several letters to Edmon introducing me to him, including photos.
But boys will be boys and a boy’s best friend stays with him forever.
Edmon has made this claim several times in his letter,
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“Hello. You are my best friend.”
I thought it was something cute that maybe Edmon learned to write at our program. I mean, was Jeremy really his best friend?
When news came that I would travel to Uganda with the Compassion Bloggers and that I had an opportunity to meet Edmon, I stressed in emails and phone calls that, of course, I would meet Edmon, but please communicate that I am Bri. Jeremy’s wife. He knows of me. But please just be sure to communicate that to him.
My nerves rose as high as the plane that took me to Uganda. I wondered if Edmon would remember that I am Jeremy’s wife. Would he be confused?
So he walks in. Light pink dress-up shirt. Tall and lanky. Handsome. I look at him and he looks over and around me. As the translator walks toward me to introduce us, all my nervous thoughts just leave. And I cry.
I mean, I ugly cry:
That’s good. I was really hoping to make this potentially awkward situation even more awkward.
As I try to compose myself, Edmon’s stare takes up residence on the ground. And it stays there. The translator is quick to respond. Because I am sure everyone sees the awkward existence between us.
“He knows you are Bri. But he was hoping that Jeremy might be here.”
How can a boy not hope to meet his best friend? So I scramble to tell all about Jeremy. About how Jeremy prays for him and talks about him. About how excited he gets when Edmon writes.
As the translator communicates this to Edmon, he looks up and smiles big. Like, really big. Heartfelt, heart-warming, heart-charged big.
A smile that walks right into my heart and settles in, and will never leave.
I hand him gifts. Play some of the games we got him. In which I clumsily throw a ball (because I always clumsily throw a ball) to him and it grazes the side of his head. Yes, I know. It is a soft ball.
And we all laugh. But let’s call it what it is: I hit my sponsored child with a SOFT ball in the head.
And I just decide right then and there to make awkward ours. Our story. Carrying this time forward, I show him pictures. He rarely looks right at me.
I turn the page on the picture album and there is Jeremy’s picture. And then that territory-marking smile appears.
Jeremy’s name. That’s the sweet spot. And I finally understand, Jeremy is Edmon’s best friend.
I ask him questions. Questions. Questions. I get quiet one-word answers. Eyes averted. He keeps himself pulled in. But I’m beaming and filled and flowing. My husband created a bond with Edmon, and his name brings this little boy such joy.
Edmon has a best friend. A friendship that could have only been forged through Compassion and the local church.
When Jeremy sponsored Edmon, he knew he would receive all the benefits from this mnistry, the emotional, spiritual, socio-economical and cognitive care. But he also knew he was Edmon’s sponsor, and his sponsor alone. He knew Edmon would receive his letters. And Edmon would write him letters.
I ask Edmon if there is anything he would like me to tell Jeremy when I get home. And I receive it, that beautiful, purpose-stained smile.
He looks at me. He looks me right in the eyes. He sits up, speaks up and his heart lifts up. And he says,
“Greet him for me. Tell him I pray for him and I pray for his health. I am so happy to receive his gifts and I pray that God keeps him well.”
But let’s get right down to it. This post is titled, “This One’s for the Men.” Because I know Jeremy will read this post. I know I will tell Jeremy this story when I get home. And I know Jeremy will have had no idea what he meant to Edmon.
Sponsorship isn’t just for women. You know, the maternal type. The ones who seem to be the most likely to remember to write. The ones who might shout for joy with each letter received.
A bond between a boy and a man is quite purely, important. So this is a call to all the men to Sponsor a Child.
Or a call to all the women who know a man (a friend, a husband, a boyfriend, a son) to encourage that man to Sponsor a Child.
There is a boy out there who might find such joy at just the sound of your name. A boy who, in the midst of poverty, might find his best friend.
It’s time to say good-bye. I walk toward him with purpose, hoping to savor an unforgettable hug. As I bend down and lean in, he does something quite awkward. He juts his arm out, extending his hand. For a handshake.
I burst into a laugh. Seems like we’re both pretty good at awkward. And I wouldn’t have wanted to end our time any other way.