A Boy Named Daniel
During the last few miles of the half marathon, I was suffering. The long hills of Kampala had taken their toll on me, and I was beginning to fade. John Huddle, one of my half marathon buddies turned and asked me, “Steph, who are you running for?” In between gasps for air (we were headed up one of those brutal hills) I said, “I am running for Daniel.” With that in mind, I kept going.
At that time of the race, Daniel was a picture, sent to me by World Vision, hanging on my ‘fridge at home. He was $35 taken out of my bank account each month. Daniel was a name I repeated over and over to myself to get me through the last long weeks of training. Then, on a cool sunny morning on November 29, 2011, I sat in a small room singing praise music with my team and with staff from World Vision Uganda. As I sang, I watched a young boy and his mother walk into the room. I thought that maybe I recognized the boy’s face, but I could not be sure. Then after the singing, they called his name – Daniel. He wasn’t a picture anymore. He wasn’t a figure that appeared in the ledger of my checkbook. He wasn’t just a name used to get my feet through the miles. He was a boy with soft-spoken words and bright shining eyes. He was a 10 year old who loved math and drawing. He was a striker on his soccer team with crazy good footwork. As I placed my hand on his shoulder and told him how happy I was to meet him, I wondered who was receiving the bigger gift from God that day, Daniel or I.
I spent four incredible hours with Daniel that day. I gave him a soccer ball as a gift, and we played soccer and volleyball. Did I mention what a great soccer player he is? We sat in the grass while, through an interpreter, he told me about what subjects he liked at school and how he helped his mom at home. Daniel’s father passed away when Daniel was two. He is the “man of the house” and helps his mom with dishes and going to get water. He sang me a song he learned in church, and I sang him “Jesus Loves Me.” I gave him a scrapbook with pictures of our family. He took his time looking at each picture as I told him about my husband and my kids. He really liked the pictures of snow! I had brought some M&Ms with me, and it was a delight to watch him taste my favorite candy for the first time.
Daniel had gifts for me too. He gave me a long spoon that he had made himself. He also gave me a handle for a hoe that he had carved. He wondered whether I had ever used a hoe before, and he grinned as I told him that I had grown up on a farm and that my mom had taught me to use a hoe when I was very young! My final present was his soccer ball that he had used up until that day. It was a mass of plastic bags and old rags bound together with twine. I felt so humbled that he would give that to me. As we stood for a few last pictures, I gently pinched his cheeks and got him to smile – he’s such a serious little boy! The time came to say goodbye. Daniel thanked me for coming and I thanked him for the gifts and for spending the morning with me.
Daniel is part of my family now. Not a day has gone by since I met him that I don’t think about him. I know that meeting Daniel was a gift. Not everyone who sponsors children through World Vision will have the opportunity to meet their sponsored child. Regardless, child sponsors have the opportunity to form a real and lasting relationship with a child. I challenge you to see that picture on your ‘fridge as more than a name. Remember that there is a person with hopes and dreams at the end of the $35 you send each month to World Vision. Write letters, send small gifts, and send cards at Christmas and for Birthdays. I have been saying: Sponsor a child and change a life. I thought I was changing Daniel’s life, but Daniel has forever changed mine.