I was missing home today. I went to the Oasis Mall in Kampala because of the coffeeshop there. The coffeeshop feels like a home, except it is in Africa. While there, I got to talk to my sister, Tricia and her awesome fiance, Lynn. Then, I called my Mom and we talked for about two minutes when the internet died. (That happens a lot over here.)
At this point, I wasn’t sure what to do, but I didn’t want to go home yet. I decided to go to a little restaurant in the mall to listen to music. While there, I listened to some music. Just as I was about to leave, a little boy walked up and said, “Buy me some food.” It wasn’t so much a question. And if a kid comes up to me and asks me to buy him food, I figure he’s hungry, and it is an automatic “Yes.” It was him looking for some food now, and he banked on the American with the crazy beard to come through for him. Well, that restaurant had just closed, so we walked to the other side of the food court, Kampala’s version of Pizza Hut. As we walked over, I asked him what his name was.
“Eric,” he said.
“How old are you, Eric?” I asked.
“I’m eight,” Eric answered.
We sat down and ordered a couple of small pizzas, and a Mountain Dew for Eric. Now, Eric couldn’t speak very good English, and I couldn’t speak any Luganda. I wasn’t sure what to do. Then it hit me. I had my iPhone, a splitter, and two sets of headphones. It was time to introduce Eric to some of my music. I decided to go classic, and kicked off with some Michael Jackson via “Man in the Mirror.” Little Eric started smiling, and singing along. Towards the end of the song, he looked up from across the table and said, “I want to hear Justin Bieber.”
“Well, little dude, you’re in luck,” I said. (Yes, I have plenty of JB in my iTunes. And for all of you who want to judge me, just hold your horses and read on.)
I played him some Justin Bieber. When Never Say Never came on, he lit up with a huge smile, and started singing quietly to every word. This was Eric’s jam. He got an especially huge grin on his face when Will Smith’s son came on and started rapping with him.
We ate pizza, Eric finished his Mountain Dew, and then we got up to leave. Eric asked me for money for his taxi ride home. Then, one of his little buddies came up and asked me for a little cash too. No problem. I went in to a store in the mall, a tiny version of Wal-Mart, that stays open even when most of the shops shut down. When I walked out, Eric and his buddy were waiting for me with smiles on their face. They had something now. A music DVD. They said it was Eric’s brother on the cover. The kid on the cover couldn’t have been more than ten, but he looked like Eric so I thought this was probably right.
I asked them to take me to their leader. (You can automatically purchase CDs, bracelets, or other knick-knacks from little kids in Africa, but often someone is using them to make a profit for themselves.) In the parking lot, they led me over to our little singing-star wonder, Eric’s big brother. All three of them asked me to buy from them. There was a college-age dude I thought they worked for by them. Turns out he works for Orange, the company Kyler’s dad works for. I asked him if he thought this would help them, or if it would enable their bosses. My new friend with Orange talked to them in Lugandan.
“A lot of times, kids are working for someone, but these kids seem okay,” he said. “They have a sad story. They have HIV. They are trying to pay for their school fees through this DVD.”
I agreed with him. They looked legit. These little kids were cute as could be. So I bought one DVD for the price of three, and told them to split the proceeds among themselves.
Why am I telling you all this? I guess I want to share a little bit of what life is like over here. And because I have a tough time processing some of this. I’ve never been an eight year old kid who lives in the slums of a city, selling DVDS of my brother the superstar singer at 9:30 PM in a mall parking lot just so I can go to school. These kids were sweet, but they were tough. I was impressed by them. And I was impressed by something else. My life is too good to be true. This isn’t to say my life is perfect, or everything works out just right. It isn’t to say I don’t hurt. (I think sometimes, you can develop a martyr/messiah complex when you see other people’s problems. Just because someone’s leg got blown off doesn’t mean your migraine doesn’t hurt. What it does mean is your not the only person who has pain. In my case, I don’t have a bad life at all. I’m blessed beyond belief. I have way more than I need, and God pours out abundance on me.)
Eric was a gift from God to me this evening. He reminded me that there are some things that are more important than a day of missing home, or wondering how the Thunder are playing this year. There was something beautiful I got to experience tonight through Eric. It was the love of God. When I clicked on Justin Bieber, the way Eric’s face lit up, I was overwhelmed with joy. And all I did was push a button that turned on some music.
Sometimes, we think to do something for God, we need to pack up and go to the other side of the world. That’s not true at all. There are some kids in your city who would love for you to buy them a pizza, and play some Justin Bieber or possibly Lil Wayne for them. (If they ask for Lil Wayne, just have some Lecrae on your iPod, and say, if you like Lil Wayne, you’ll love this. And most of the time, they do.)
We are blessed to be a blessing. When we see that we are blessed to bless, then we will enjoy the blessing of blessing someone who in turn blesses us because the blessing is actually in blessing others. That’s all I got today. I’m in Kampala, Uganda. Sometimes, I have no idea what I’m doing. Sometimes, I have no doubt this is where God wants me. Like when I’m sitting across from a little dude listening to Justin Bieber as he chows down on pizza and Mountain Dew.
Oh yeah, I got back and the DVD is legit. It’s a few songs with Eric’s brother singing, and a lot of his classmates helping him out. For the skeptic out there, it’s not always a scam. So relax and give a little.