I spent a summer in Uganda in 1992. I was nineteen years old and felt Africa pulling me my whole life. My mom spent a summer in Kenya when she was 18, and my brother in Zambia the year before. I knew it was my turn, and followed the footsteps of my Mom all the way there, even standing in some of the very same spots my mom visited when she was my age. It was remarkable.
We lived for a while in war torn Northern Uganda, witnesses to the evil dictatorship of a mad man who tore his country apart a decade earlier. Signs of his atrocities were everywhere, shelled out tanks and helmets with bullet holes lay strewn about as if it had just happened. But mostly, we saw the shock and sadness fresh in the faces of the elders of tribes we visited. Their poverty was intense. Their children starved, the women working hard in the fields for a day’s pay.
I was honored to visit a nearby village a few times with a few friends. They welcomed us like royalty, the women only entering our presence on their knees. This was very difficult for all of us to receive, but we knew we were guests and should honor their traditions.
On one of our visits to this village, I received a chicken. The woman, who gave it to me in front of her whole village, gave it to me on her knees, a symbol of honor and respect. I was a nineteen-year-old, immature, selfish American girl. This gesture of complete humility from this woman and this village marked me for eternity and changed the trajectory of my life. In that instant, I saw humility and wanted to mirror it for the rest of my days.