A word from Curt
It’s a word we’ve come to fully realize in Africa. There’s much more to homelessness than just being displaced.
For refugees, it signifies the complete loss of all things material.
Often, everything but the shirt on your back.
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Chapter 14 “Shirt on my Back”
There’s plenty of sadness in the camps. Then again, if you look and listen,you can find treasures of love, laughter, and kindness.
There’s also plenty of humor. It says a lot about the resilience of the human spirit how people have the ability to laugh in the midst of even terrible circumstances.
The older man came around a tukul (hut), scattering chickens in his midst. He was impossible to miss in his silk pajamas.
He had on silk pajamas.
I’m talking about a long-sleeved shirt, buttoned to the neck. Pajama bottoms dragging in the dirt with a knee in need of patching.
It was mid-afternoon. A long time since morning; a good while until dark.
He was dressed for either.
We stopped and gawked. One of the Americans in our group said, “I wonder how much those silk pajamas cost new?”
I have no idea. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen them in a store back home. At least not in places I shop: like WalMart, Target, or Academy.
Glen Hickey, a Kentucky volunteer, hit the nail on the head as we watched the pajama-clad refugee swish by. “Now, I know where Hugh Hefner sends his hand-me-downs.”
We laughed until we cried.
It wasn’t the first time we’d had tears this day. It was just the first time it included laughter.
The silk pajamas were probably all this man had. He looked pleased to have them. They did look comfortable.
I recalled the common expression, “We got out with just our shirt on our back.”
You hear that after house fires, tornadoes, and hurricanes in America.
It’s true also in war zones. Armed men burst into a village in the dead of night. Dead of night. For many it will be the night they die.
For some, especially women and children, it may be a fate seemingly worse than death.
People don’t stop to gather possessions. The ones who survive run and never look back.
Often with just the shirt on their back.
Pencil sketch of the Pajama Man.
Africa is an environment that allows plenty of tears as well as smiles and laughter.
It seems you cannot have one without the others.
We greet strangers with smiles. It translates well in any language. We laugh with Africans.
We laugh at Africans.
They laugh a great deal at us. I seem to really entertain them with my twisted tongue, bald head, and hairy arms. As my friend Moses Yaka says, “You Mzungu’s are unique!”
We laugh and often weep without shame.
Dr. Tim Patrick and admirers at Waju Kakwa Camp West Nile, Uganda
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Q. Will you pray for the displaced folks like the Pajama Man?
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