We’ve got a roof over our heads.
And the kids are all fed.
And the woman I love most of all
Lies close beside me in our bed.
Lord, give me the eyes to see
Exactly what’s it’s worth
And I will be the richest man on earth.”
-Paul Overstreet “Richest Man on Earth”
I’ve never really understood that term until recently:
A roof over our heads.
Not everyone has that in Africa.
Poppa Mzee had a roof. But that was about it.
We met him at Nyumazi 1 Camp. He lay on folded cardboard. Bareground beneath him. A small bag of possessions served as his pillow.
His shelter was open-sided.
A white UN tarp, which served as his roof, flapped in the breeze. He was alone.
I wondered about his story.
How did he get here?
Why was he so alone among 19,000 people?
One must be extremely careful giving away things in the Camps. You can easily cause a mob scene.
People can get hurt. So we discourage giving anything to a select few.
My sister Colleen once caused a riot in a Liberian orphanage by giving candy to the children.
Projects and items must be carefully planned.
I couldn’t get Poppa Mzee off my mind as our group walked to a new water well.
We were met by the Camp Chairman, Wilson. He was a tall Dinka man in his forties. This position is filled by a vote of the refugees in the camp. It’s a big position. A tough position.
Kind of like Moses in the wilderness. Listening to folks and their problems day after day.
Chairman Wilson walked with us back toward our vehicle. We passed Poppa Mzee, and I asked the Chairman, “We have two sleeping mats tied on our roof. May I give one to this man?”
He thought a moment. “Do you have two?”
“Straight from Ten Mile, Louisiana.”
That went over his head but he lowered his voice, “I brought my old daddy with me from South Sudan. He’d love one.”
“We’ll give one mat to Mzee here and you can take the other to your father.”
I won’t describe how Poppa Mzee received his mat. You can see it in the photos. It was a highlight of the day.
I thought of Cooter, Dorothy, and all of the women who’d knitted these mats. I’ve been told it takes 700 WalMart bags to make one mat. I wonder how long one mat takes.
I just know it made a difference in Poppa Mzee Poppa’s life. He said thank you in Dinka.
Ladies, I’m just passing it on.
Warning: Please do not send mats over. It is much simpler and economical to buy mats here or better yet supply the materials for folks to make their own from local materials.
“We can do no great things but we can do small things with great love.” -Mother Teresa
I wonder if Cooter Willis has her passport.