I was supposed to go to the gym this evening but instead felt I had to stay in and write this blog. I’m sure you’re thinking “yeah right, good excuse for being lazy”. But there is a reason deeper than lethargy.
This afternoon I had tea with Bishop Alphonse and his wife Evelyne from Nebbi Diocese in northern Uganda. I have a link with Nebbi Diocese because I lived there for four months after law school. I stayed with the then Bishop and his family. He’s now Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi, who you may have seen in western media due to his controversial thoughts on homosexuality.
I warmed immediately to Bishop Alphonse. He is a gentle man, softly spoken, wise words drifting from his lips if you listened above the tumult of children and afternoon tea. The cadence of his voice took me back to my days in Nebbi when I listened to the tribal language Alur and smelt the smoke of cooking fires. Bishop Aphonse told me I would see changes if I went back. “Food is now short” he said simply. He explained that due to lack of rain the crops have failed and people are hungry. “We have nothing; our supermarkets are our gardens. People eat one meal of porridge a day after long hours of work. Mothers stay in the garden so they can’t hear their babies crying.” Can we help? I asked, can we send some bags of rice or maize flour? “But that will only help very few for a short time,” he said wisely “and will cause problems with those we cannot help.”
I couldn’t eat my sandwich. Neither could I go to the gym. I felt it was wrong to go and burn calories from excess food when I’d heard about true hunger. So I’ve stayed at home to pass out this message.
We sometimes say we’re hungry but we know nothing of hunger. I recently read an essay by Katherine Barrett*, a Canadian currently living in South Africa. She describes how what she’s seen in South Africa has caused her to “recalibrate her scale of hardship”. She writes about her daily struggles of bringing up three small children, then shows how she’s learnt what real struggles are – camping in temporary shelters; worrying about xenophobic violence; scraping together enough food for a family enhanced by orphans taken in through selfless kindness.
I’m not sure what we can do, maybe understanding and trying to appreciate the cliché of how lucky we are is a good start. Bishop Alphonse said they hope to have crops by July. Until then, he was not sure what would happen to his flock, hoping, vaguely, that the government would help.
Today it’s raining and we’re complaining it’s cool for May. But people in Nebbi are starving because it’s not rained enough on them. When I lived with Archbishop Henry he told me that rain was a blessing. Now I’m starting to understand why.
* Carrying On by Katherine Barrett is featured in the recently published Call Me Okaasan: Adventures in Multicultural Mothering edited by Suzanne Kamata. It’s a wonderful and thought provoking book which I will be reviewing on this blog as soon as I’ve finished it!