Every year, Lydia and Jo host a New Year’s Day lunch for the twenty or so kids they support. Parents and friends come too. Lydia expected that between 30 and 40 people would show up.
My life has mostly been about small groups, about Jody and me, and about being alone. Thirty human beings together in celebration! The mind boggles.
We from the B&B arrived around 10:00 am and began blowing up balloons. Oh, those life skills that are a challenge! I knew that the arthritis in my right hand would make tying the little suckers an adventure, and I was right. But truly, so what? Once I allowed my balloons to be a little smaller than the norm, life worked just fine. Maybe that could be a koan for my life: “A little smaller is okay.”
And then the arrivals. Little girls in yellow dresses … red, blue and green too. One young boy in a dress shirt, complete with bow tie. A few in flowing robes, a typical Muslim way of dressing.
The balloons were hanging on the walls between triangular banners. Splashes of colour adorned the tablecloths, which were also sprinkled with glitter. Plus smiles were everywhere.
The local school teacher led us in a clapping game, with the kids sitting and the adults standing around the big table. He would call out a rhythm and we’d clap once, four times or ten times, except when some adult got it wrong (such as me!). If you missed, you were out. I think Baziel eventually won.
Then the children sang. I feasted on their glowing faces. Oh my. Where am I? In a very good place, I think.
Time to eat – a delicious vegetarian meal. Was this couscous? Was that cabbage? And a yummy onion sauce. The names of the foods didn’t matter. We were together. There were three big tables, and other folks ate around the coffee table. With me at table were black kids, white teens, black adults and white ones. Basically the world. How I was blessed to be in the presence of them all.
After eating, I joined a table of young Senegalese kids. We made faces at each other. We made silly sounds. I picked up some bits of glitter and rubbed them into my face. Soon many arms and faces were shining red. Balloons were punched into the air at each other. Six-year-olds, ten-year-olds, a fifty-year-old – it didn’t matter. F-U-N.
A girl at home in Belmont, Canada named Sam had given me two bags of chocolate bars for the kids. Another named Jayla had created yarn bracelets. I had the joy of distributing both, and of seeing the smiles in return, with Louisa taking photos for the girls at home to see. Making a difference from many thousands of kilometres away. Thanks, kids.
Such a large human family, spreading its wings from Belmont to Toubacouta, and infinitely beyond. Thank you, dear friends, for sharing the journey with me.