In Ethiopia, an education requires monthly fees, school books and a school uniform. Without money to pay for school fees, that child cannot attend school, and the opportunity to get an education and "make something of themselves" is lost. Any family property, livestock or land is lost. Anything passed down from parent to child, from mother to daughter, from father to son ... is lost.
It's a parent's most valuable legacy ... the things we teach our children. The wisdom gained through hardship and experience, that we attempt to pass down to our children to (hopefully) lessen their mistakes. The advice and counsel we try to give as they navigate through childhood into their turbulent teens. But for an orphaned child ... their is no such legacy.
This last weekend, my parents came to help us with some house painting and to build a new railing for a deck. My dad's construction background comes in very handy on these types of projects and Jay and I are very willing to take instruction and learn from his expertise. This time, we had a new little helper that was extremely curious about all the tools that were suddenly appearing and the fresh load of wood that arrived with Grandpa.
Jayden (9 years old) ended up working alongside his grandpa all day, and well into the next day. Little boys are sometimes known for their short attention span, easy distraction, and quickness to boredom - but there were tools involved, and measuring tapes to learn how to use, and levels to hold in place until the bubble reached just the right spot! A dream come true for a curious (and mechanically inclined) little boy!
Jayden tucked himself along his Grandpa's side, and Grandpa was happy to have such an attentive helper and hard worker. And amid the hustle and bustle of all the projects, I had one of those moments where it suddenly dawns on me that something momentous is happening.
Planets are alligning,
broken cogs are suddenly meshing perfectly
and a little boy who was once an orphan, was in the process of gaining a birthright ... a new heritage ... a legacy, right before my eyes.
I stopped to watch (and take a few pictures) as Grandpa patiently explained to Jayden how to hold the deck spindle in place so he could screw it securely in place. How to check it to make sure it was plumb and straight. After a few, Jayden caught on and I watched my Dad smile approvingly and Jayden's face break into a brilliant smile.
Pretty soon they had their own rhythm going and they were working together in perfect harmony with few words needing to be exchanged. When grandpa needed a different drill bit, Jayden anticipated it and presented the right one. When a new railing section was ready to be placed, Jayden was ready with the platforms and jigs to help with the placement. When the drill started to lose power, Jayden walked over to the charger to bring a fresh battery.
Later on, I watched as Jayden demonstrated to his little brother, some of the finer points of the tools. Pointing out the different drill bits and the various screw heads.
Pretty soon, Wesley was trying his hand at the hammer and drill, and sitting patiently while handing deck screws to his Daddy right when he needed them.
Later, I thought about what Jayden's birth mother had told me about his birth father. "That's no child of mine," he had said, disclaiming him as his son, and setting Jayden on a path of despair, starvation and bitter poverty.
And now ... this little boy not only has a Daddy that claims him, he has a Mommy, a brother, 2 sisters, 2 grandpas, 2 grandmas, and more cousins, aunts and uncles than he can count. And little by little, knowledge and wisdom and experience are being handed down to him within the birthright of his new family.