A letter to the once nameless child who drank gasoline


Handsome boy, how excited I am to see you again. Each day passes slowly, but I know in 121 days I will be able to see you. I realize you probably don’t remember me. It is understandable. You remained nameless to me for months after our meeting too.

Nixon, I didn’t even know you existed. Your face, if I ever saw it, blended into the hundreds of other children’s faces that thronged to us every day while there. I do remember when you stood out though. I was working with Ken in the community. It was a hot day and I was tagging along meeting people, taking names and snapping pictures. It was fun but the heat made even excitement monotonous. Suddenly someone came running through the community yelling in a loud voice. Lala was close by and responded. The lady spoke fervently to Lala and when she was done they both ran off together. I did not understand what had happened but noting the fearful look on Lala’s face, I knew something was seriously wrong.  Someone, I am not quite sure who, roughly translated for me. A thirsty child had drank gasoline.

My heart dropped out of my chest as my head swarmed with questions and thoughts. Gasoline?? Where did he get it? Gasoline can kill people can’t it? Yes, yes it can because even the fumes are deadly! I know, I have read the labels. What can help? Think April, think! The poison control hotline jingle popped into my head. 1-800-222-1222. Good thing it is so catchy, I thought. A quick look at my phone reminded me we had no service out of the country. Okay, no service, now what? Gosh where is mom when you need her? Oh wait, MOM! Yeah she used to give us this black pill to cure all sorts of things. What was it? Activated charcoal! Yeah, yeah that should work right? My mind continued to peddle thoughts but with each one I realized, all of my thoughts were designed to work in America. I had no idea what kind of supplies we had out here. Soon after I realized there was nothing I could do. Lala had already ran off. I could be of no help to her because I did not speak your language, and my nursing skills do not even pass as rudimentary. My feet continued to trudge behind Ken as my mind fumbled to think of something useful. When it came up blank I did the only thing left I could do: I prayed.

I tell you little guy, I prayed like I never remember praying before. I pleaded God for your life. I begged him to spare you. I prayed for you as passionately as I would have my own brother. My heart cried for you little man.

I eventually made it back to the school and I saw you curled up on Lala’s lap. You were feigning between conscious and unconsciousness. You were so small. I sat across the room and watched your chest rise and fall. I thanked God for each breath and begged for another. Amazingly, your breathing continued.

By lunch time you were sitting up with a plate of food. Lala was still holding you, and forcing water down your throat. In between bites you looked across the room and caught my eye. You smiled as you shoved another bite in your mouth.

I wonder if you would even remember the day you drank gasoline without the stories you’ll inevitably hear. But I’ll remember it always, it changed my life. You were the first child in Jubilee I loved. The first one I prayed for. The first one to break my heart beyond repair.

So, dear Nixon with the bright smile and mischievous eyes, I am looking forward to being in your life. I cannot wait to see you again. Be strong and safe little man.




One response »

  1. Pingback: Come gather ’round and hear a tale of not so long ago « My journey

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