This is a love story. No, no not what you’re thinking get your minds out of the dime-store romance novels. This is a love story between Jimmy and I.
Last week I was with a group of people and someone asked me a rather simple question, “Why did you guys start Atin?” I could think of a million reasons; Morris had a dream, we met some amazing kids, but for me in many ways it bottles down to… Jimmy. It was love at first sight. He stole my heart (and my food, but that is a story for another day).
So this is why I call it a love story. Because it truly was love at first sight. He charmed me with his charisma and his giant smile that splits his face in half. His baby blue puffy coat was the icing on the cake.
Mind you like all love stories this one has its ups and downs. We took Jimmy off of the street 2 years ago shortly after I returned to Uganda. Complicated family issues made it impossible to resettle him immediately so he went to day school near Atin and came home to us every afternoon. He spent 8 months with us and earned his nickname, “Mr. Ridiculous”. When Jimmy was resettled the moment was bittersweet. All of us at Atin would give each other wry, knowing looks…we missed him. But we reminded ourselves that this was his chance to start a new life back home.
We failed. Two months later Morris and I saw Jimmy on the street again. He wouldn’t even look us in the eye. We starred at him in shock. I can honestly say at that moment my heart hurt so much I could barely breathe. I wanted to chase him. To yell at him. To shake him until he went home. Morris just smiled patiently and said, “Wait, he’ll come to us.”
Patience is not a virtue of mine, but I waited. Begrudgingly. Months passed and I didn’t see Jimmy on the street anymore. In fact, I kidded myself that he had gone home by himself. Then out of the blue Morris called me this spring. He simply said, “Someone wants to talk to you.” It was Jimmy. He made his decision. Just like Morris said, he came back to us. All Jimmy said was, “Hello Auntie. Forgive me.” Nothing to forgive.
Life has come full circle and love and destiny have run their course. Jimmy is now at Atin. He grew almost 3 inches while he was gone. Those 3 inches stretched him out and made his knock-knees more pronounced. He would play soccer with the other kids and his knees would, well, knock. He would cry and be unable to walk without pain for days.
Jimmy doesn’t know his birthday. So this year I shared mine with him. We are now in the process of fixing his legs. In June 2013 both legs were operated now he is undergoing the long rehabilitation process. Jimmy is no longer knock-kneed. He gave me renewed hope that with love anything is possible. I gave him straight legs. I think I got the better end of the bargain. Like I said. An unconventional love story.