It has been raining for hours, a symphony on a tin roof lulling to the patter of flowing tears. I should be sleeping. This is my favorite lullaby. The night wrapping me in a moist embrace and singing sweetly to me. But I find myself stingy with this unquiet. The electricity flashed away by a streak of lightening breaking the night into temporary day, the glow of my laptop growing faint, and I find myself not willing to relinquish this rare part of my life now, my days, where no one needs me and no one can reach me if they did.

My Saturday evaporated into a cloud of students from our orphan support program and a nap of sheer exhaustion. The kids dubbed me mom and my colleague dad. But even without all the students present, 22 children is a lot to handle all at once.

And maybe if it had simply been their 22 pairs of eyes needing…needing school fees and books and belief that this isn’t all we can give, maybe fatigue would not have held me hostage and stolen most of my daylight.

But Thursday…beyond the sanitation push that had me wielding a hoe to help dig trash pits and nails to assemble tippy taps…there was a child so tiny and frail, skin hanging from the bones. So malnourished I could see it from across the yard. No need to know the age because no age should look like that.

Only age does matter.

Ten months.

Ten months. And when I held her in my hands, she was weightless, her sounds – tiny like her frail body – barely loud enough from my arms to reach my ears but shouting at me just the same.

And what can do at this point? so much damage is already done. This week we’ll take her and her mother to the nutrition ward. But it isn’t a matter of simple malnutrition; the other children are happy and healthy. She is sick. Appropriate care so long in coming, she is probably dying as well.

What to do but schedule appointments for for the coming week. finish the day.

I readied for the ride home, waiting on a stretch of narrow dirt road. Distracting myself, I bent over to watch as the tips of my fingers trailed lightly over slender leaves triggered the closing of the touch-me-nots woven into the blanket of other greenery. The Ugandans stared curiously and laughed and the strangeness of the foreigners.

The group of children that had trailed us from house to house as we asked if people had trash pits, a place to wash their hands, latrines, increased and their chorus of “mzungo” grew in volume as well.

And like their voices, my week followed me home, urged me to lie still for just a moment, enticed me to sleep mid-day leaving me sleepless in the midst of my thunderstorm lullaby.

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