'This Is a Soul: This Mission of Rick Hodes' by Marilyn Berger

The tests confirmed everything Rick had suspected. The x-ray—which Rick read by holding it up to the sunlight—showed tuberculosis of the lung and the spine, and the blood tests revealed malnutrition (this seven-year-old weighed no more than thirty pounds), iron deficiency anemia, and worms, which are very common. They are so common, in fact, that when Ethiopians are sick, they say "my worms are not eating." They think worms are a normal part of the anatomy that transform food and drink into waste and may become angry if the person doesn't eat properly.

Once Rick had the test results, he put out a call for Danny to come back to the clinic, but the message came back that Danny was too busy. He was watching a video, and it was not convenient for him to come. Among other things, Rick wanted to give Danny some hard-boiled eggs, and he'd put a few in his pocket that morning. Twenty minutes later he ran into an old friend who gave him an enthusiastic Ethiopian hug—a tight shoulder to-shoulder three-kiss embrace. So much for the eggs. At least they were cooked.

Within days, Danny turned up, and Rick started him on the medicines he needed. He found a place for him to stay in a dormitory at Mother Teresa's, where the beds abut each other side to side and end to end with just enough space between them for the kids to sidle through. This bed, one of hundreds of cots neatly made up with matching flowered quilts, was the first real one Danny ever had. Now he was safe and sheltered from the elements and surrounded by other boys, some orphans, others with the usual array of problems from heart disease to cancer.

But Danny was not a happy boy. He told us that the next day was Timket, the holiday that commemorates the baptism of Jesus, and like many Ethiopian holidays, a day particularly profitable for beggars. Yet here he was, stuck inside, missing out on a big payday.

"I talked to him at length," Rick said, "about how I want him to have a bright future and to help him go to good schools. He was a bit okay with that, but still bummed to be away from his street-boy friends. The people in his village are delighted that he's off the street and has more of a future."

It didn't take long for the little boy to adjust to the good life. "Danny, did you have a shower?" Rick asked him a few days later. "Yes, with warm water," Danny replied, his eyes wide with amazement at this new luxury. He also found out what it is to wear clean clothes and shoes that are not falling apart, to eat three meals a day, and to have the companionship of the other boys.

In the days ahead, he especially seemed to thrive on his daily outings with Rick, who became as taken with him as I was. They'd walk hand in hand to the juice store down the block, where Rick drank his usual—a rainbow parfait of avocado, banana, guava, and papaya layered with a dash of grenadine, his entire lunch. It was on these outings that Danny discovered the pleasure of warm milk and cake at the adjacent Italian coffee bar, one of the many reminders of the brief Italian attempt to colonize Ethiopia. The Italians didn't last long—only five years—but they left a tasty legacy of macchiato, pizza, and spaghetti. And the word ciao has been incorporated into the Ethiopian language.

Page
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...