Sunday, January 21, 2018

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Sandy is a Night Walker – one of hundreds of children who live on small farms with their parents, yet journey every evening to huddle together for the night on a concrete slab in the centre of Kitgum, in an effort to avoid abduction.

After an emotionally exhausting day in the camps, our group returned to Kitgum and, that evening, visited the Night Walkers. We were somewhat surprised by their enthusiastic welcome. These kids were clean, well-dressed, orderly, educated, healthy-looking, beautiful, gentle, and joyful.

I was tired and found a place to sit on a concrete wall. I remember the warmth of the wall and the warmth of the bodies around me. The black children seemed to fade into the blackness of the night. I heard a voice beside me: “My name is Sandy.”

We just sat there. Sandy’s fourteen. She sleeps on the veranda and has a twelve year old brother named Jacko. She showed me her school books and math homework. A ten year old entertained us. I played and teased with others as they crowded around. But I sat with Sandy.

Not far off, I heard voices that sounded like fun. I asked Sandy if she’d like to see what was going on, but she was clear:

“No, I just want to sit here with you.”

After a trying day, and in the midst of commotion, here was a friend who just wanted to sit with me. I couldn’t move. I wanted to stay there forever.

I don’t know how long we sat there, but eventually someone came to tell me it was time to go. I stood, and reluctantly said good-bye. I moved away from the wall and waited for the others.

But as I stood there I felt something. The breeze? My imagination? A gentle touch on my shoulder?

It was Sandy: “Mr. Jeff, are you coming back tomorrow night?”

I wouldn’t recognize Sandy to see her. It was dark, and she was dark. But she had a rich and gentle voice. I would remember that voice.

“I just want to sit with you.”

“Are you coming back?”

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