Rwandan Kindness

by Taylor Kilcup

Friday. It was the last day my small band of Rwandan women and I had to be with the villagers we had spent the previous week with. The local community (church) was hosting an important celebration (baptism) that day for whoever wanted to attend. We were traveling around the rural neighborhood inviting the new friends we had made to the celebration. We came to the home of a family whose mom was busy taking care of her young children. Upon hearing our invitation to the event, she agreed to come with one of her oldest sons. Another boy was there who we knew. In previous conversations with him, we had learned that he was an orphan who took care of cattle for a living. He said he wanted to come but he lacked the appropriate clothing. Although we tried to solve the problem with him, he was resolute about not going unless he was fully prepared. We said we understood and continued visiting the other villagers.

At the event, amidst the singing and dancing of the celebration, I looked for the mom and her son who had said they would attend. After enjoying a couple Rwandan-style songs and dances, I saw the sweet mom enter the building with her son. To my surprise and delight, behind them came the boy who had said he wasn’t able to come. I later found out that the mom had found the boy some extra clothes so he could come. During the event, both boys made significant commitments in front of their community and were graciously embraced by the community.

This simple act of kindness touched my heart. I was struck by the mom’s willingness to not only shift her already full and stressful schedule of taking care of her children and animals at a moment’s notice. Not only was she willing to sacrifice her time (probably at least three hours), but she was ready to take care of her son’s friend who was in need of a little help. As I pondered this experience, I wondered, how often am I willing to sacrifice my plans for something possibly more valuable? How often am I willing to lend a helping hand to someone with good desires but lacking some material thing that I could offer? As I returned to the United States, I have a greater awareness, and I hope willingness to engage in, the privileges available to me to help others.

Provided time and opportunity allow it, I would be honored to return to Rwanda, or another country where I can somewhat immerse myself in a different culture. I have a feeling the more time I spend with Rwandans, the more “others” focused, and less “me” focused I will tend to be. I may care a little more about the wellbeing of those around me than protecting my own perceived sense of security. I may find a little more value in understanding and engaging in other people’s life journeys than getting wrapped up in my own little problems. Perhaps I will learn a little better how to find happiness in others’ victories.

Rwandan mom and sons