His name was Brez, although I didn’t know this when I first saw him. Another two year old boy at the bus station, wearing a mustard T-shirt, and cute little miniature sports shoes, was waiting for the bus with his mother and father. Like Moses, he too was intrigued by a bin of sweets and drinks. He stopped next to one on the ground to peer curiously at its contents. I thought about asking his parents if I could “treat” him to something, but then I saw his father catch his eye with a solemn gaze, and gently put up his index finger in the air and wave it from side to side. The boy understood, and quietly moved on. The next time I saw him, he was munching on a samosa, a triangular savory snack made of vegetables or meat wrapped in thin sheets of dough and then deep-fried.
The abacuruuzi (street sellers) who sell these at bus stations carry them around in plastics bins with lids; other abacuruuzi sell sweet deep-fried balls or triangles of dough, as well as hard-boiled eggs offered with a public salt shaker. These snacks are usually prepared daily by various women in their homes throughout the community and then sold on the street. I silently applauded the boy’s parents’ choice to give him something with nutritional value. My bus came and I scurried off to try to “score” a good seat for myself. I have learned to “push” my way past the young men who are unmoved to courtesy by the sight of umukecuru (elderly woman), black or white. I was so appalled by their self-centered behavior on my last trip to Kigali that I gave up my soft, fixed seat to another (Rwandan) umukecuru who boarded after me, and sat uncomfortably in a fold down aisle seat for the entire trip.
This time, however, I got my second favorite seat on the bus. My first choice is, of course, the front seat right behind the big window at the front of the bus, with a great huge side window that allows the wind to blow across my face. However, the aisle seat just behind the driver offers other privileges to the discerning traveler. There, I can take off my shoes and stretch my legs out in front of me to rest on the raised platform, presumably covering some important part of the vehicle’s anatomy, while I snooze my way to my destination. Wind blows in from the driver’s window, and the view out the front is completely unobstructed. Once I arranged myself, I closed my eyes and settled in, ready to be lulled into sleep by the swaying of the bus as it wandered through the hills leading north to the capital of the country, Kigali.
After a while, I became aware of tiny fingers gently playing with my hair. I stayed very still, so as not to disturb the little intruder who was, presumably, sitting on someone’s lap in the seat behind mine. I had just had my biannual “buzz” cut done, and the child was apparently enjoying the feel of the soft short bristles. It felt good, to be caressed by tiny curious fingers. They disappeared, only to return a few minutes later. Eventually a hand came over the seat and began playing with my ear, finally, failing to have gotten the reaction he wanted, he leaned right over the back of the seat, stretched his hand out and said something to get my attention. Still, I did not look at him yet, not wanting to frighten him away. I was enjoying being the object of such a tender tactile exploration. I took his hand and held the soft, small fingers gently in mine. Finally, he withdrew his hand and I turned to see to whom it belonged. I smiled as I recognized the little samosa-eating boy in the yellow shirt. I asked his mother for his name and then reached out to invite him to come forward and sit in my lap. He came without a word, a quiet gentle little man, and leaned back against my chest as the bus rumbled down the road. The warmth of his body was reassuring, as was his unfettered trust in a total stranger.
As I watched the road unfold into the countryside, I realized that it is tiny tender curious fingers such as his that hold our future. It is our children who are our best hope for a more peaceful and loving world. It is our children who will see the world in new ways, and make better and more nourishing decisions, for us and for our planet. It is they who will walk with their children long after we have turned to dust. It is they who will discover how to turn to love instead of to hate. I wondered who Brez would one day become, whether he would be a leader in his community, in his country, in the world. Because, now, in this moment, for him, anything is possible.
*The content of this website is mine alone and does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Government, the Peace Corps, or the Rwandan government.