Free to Dance
It was our first day in Nigeria and we were absolutely overwhelmed by all the love we were already receiving from everyone we met. We spent a good amount of time just exploring that day; taking it all in. One person who really stood out to us was Daniel, one of the calmest two-year-olds any of us had ever seen, who just stared up at us from his stroller with his beautiful brown eyes.
Daniel has spent his entire life at Anawim- his mother came to the Missionary Sisters of the Poorest of the Poor when she was pregnant with him. In a moment of desperation she had tried to end the pregnancy on her own, and when she was unsuccessful came to Anawim as a last hope. After Daniel was born, his mother went back out into the world to move on with her life, leaving her son in the care of Sister Oresoa and the others at the Anawim Home.
Because of his mother’s attempt to end the pregnancy, Daniel was born with a deformity in his legs that will prevent him from ever being able to walk. We didn’t even realize this at first- it didn’t occur to five Americans who had only been in Nigeria for a few hours that seeing a kid in a stroller was out of the ordinary. But while all the other kids at Anawim spend their time moving freely and running around together, Daniel will never know what that is like.
That doesn’t stop him from being playful and even from dancing, though. We all derived so much joy from watching him during times when the group would meet as a whole to sing and pray- often someone would lift him out of his stroller and put him on the floor so he could show off his dance moves, moving himself around the floor with this arms. The other young boys, Kasimir and Generouse, even mimicked his dancing at times, demonstrating what can only be described as a sort of heartwarming solidarity between them.
The entire experience in Nigeria was absolutely humbling, but seeing Daniel dance was really something. I got pretty emotional watching a toddler who had something that we all take for granted every single day taken away from him before he ever knew he had it- I couldn’t help but wonder what would lie in the future for him. But then I reminded myself that sometimes all you can do is just be in the present. For now, Daniel is dancing, and that is something we could all take a lesson from.