He was only about three or four when I taught him at New Life two years ago, but in my dream, he was maybe ten. In my dream, I had gone back to the orphanage, and as I stood talking to Madam Grace, the caretaker, Agekow came through the door. I was surprised, because Agekow no longer lives at New Life; an uncle took him in. I cried in my joy to see him, and I cried because he spoke to me in fluent English. And I cried to see that he remembered me.
In my dream, he had grown and learned. In my dream he was healthy, and his little legs were no longer little, and no longer bowed with rickets. In my dream, I hugged my Agekow and he returned it fiercely, just like he used to.
But it was only my dream.
I haven't seen Agekow in two years. I will probably never see him again. Nearly all of the volunteers that have come and gone since my time don't even know Agekow, since he left just after I did. So many children are at New Life, and so many volunteers have come, and yet only a few of us remember this child.
He was the first to fall asleep in my arms, as I sat in a chair on my first day, feeling overwhelmed and inadequate. Agekow cried, and I took him in my arms and sang to him until he fell asleep. He wore a little blue shirt that day, and I almost never saw him in anything different. As I began to teach the nursery class, I found that they still had much to learn. The day I showed my yellow flashcard and Agekow cried, "yellow!" I was thrilled. He was a sweetheart, and his face would light up in his angel smile to hear his work praised. He could also throw tantrums that put the devil to shame. Sometimes it seemed more than just normal child mood swings; he was teased sometimes because of his legs, and would sink into depression. It would sometimes be days between when I saw that angel smile.
I think of him when I look at the moon. When we read Where the Wild Things Are, he would shout out "Moon, moon!" at every page. I think of him when I see butterflies. He loved to count the butterflies on the flashcards, saying, "Butterfly!" and after ten, his counting would digress from actual numbers into "fourteen, seventeen, ten-teen..." I think of him when I have dreams of Ghana and hear his voice that isn't really his voice talking to me in flowing English.
It seems sometimes like no one knows Agekow, like he has been forgotten. One day as I crammed myself into a Ghanaian taxi and was berated by the driver for not greeting him, it occured to me that this taxi driver was once a child. I had a momentary flash of a would-be day twenty years down the road when I returned to Ghana and sat in a taxi without acknowledging the driver, and when he looked at me I saw that it was Agekow, all grown up, and that I hadn't even greeted this child I had loved so long ago. That sudden glimpse of what could be shocked me as I realized that these children wouldn't always be young and innocent. As they lost that innocence, the world that seems to care so much for them wouldn't care for them at all.
I don't know what will ever become of Agekow. He is with family now, where he should be, and where I hope he is happy. He is where someone knows him and will care for him even when he has lost his child-like ways. Though he is unknown by many who come to New Life, he is still loved by me and the few other volunteers who remember him. And there is a God who still hears when Agekow whispers "amen."
Playing at a nearby football park.
Standing on my shoulders-- he loved feeling tall!
Agekow and his good friend Phillip.
Agekow shows his angel smile with volunteer Becky.
Working hard at a puzzle next to his friend Elizabeth.