Simple Song of Freedom

Today I have a heavy heart.  Yesterday, while hundreds of people in Kampala, Uganda,  gathered to watch the World Cup, there was a bombing.  One American was killed.  He was Nate Henn.

I met Nate when six young people from Invisible Children stayed with us this past winter.  My daughter Abby, had arranged for them to speak in our area of New Hampshire and although many people with much grander homes offered to host them, they chose to stay with us.

The group arrived after church on a Sunday, blurry eyed and travel weary, piling their backpacks and sleeping bags into the living room.  They warmly introduced themselves; Brian, Hannah, Allyson, Christo, Innocent and Nate.   I learned that Christo and Innocent were native Ugandans.  Hannah, one of the roadies, was from the UK.  The rest, roadies as well, were Americans.  After a bit of small talk, they put a movie into the DVD player and soon were asleep, snuggled up to each other like six little puppies.  While they napped, I cooked and made a pot of coffee.

Nate was the first to awaken, and gratefully accepted a cup of coffee.  He was obviously the Papa Bear of the family, waking the others shortly before it was time to leave for their next speaking engagement.    He expressed concern for Christo, who was not feeling well, and his worried eyes relaxed when I told him I would take care of Christo while the rest of them were away.

That evening, after ibuprofen and tea, Christo and I chatted.  In the few hours of that Sunday evening, I learned more about Uganda than I had in my entire life.  Christo, an engineer, designs and builds schools. His brown eyes glistened as he told me of his passion for education.  It is his belief that the future of his country rests on the shoulders of people like Innocent, who was kidnapped at age seven by the rebel army and forced to serve as a soldier.  Innocent escaped and was captured, and beaten so badly he was unable to walk for days.  Told that if he tried to escape again, he would be shot as an example to the others, he waited until he was well, and again escaped, this time successfully.  He and the other Invisible Children, spent their childhood in hiding, in order to avoid the rebel forces.  Now grown and ready for college, Innocent’s dreams are to finish his education and return to his homeland as a leader who might restore it to a country where children don’t die from cholera, AIDS and rebel gunfire.

The rest of the week was filled with the comings and goings of the Invisible Children’s ragtag army. Every day, they spoke in schools and churches to raise awareness and funds, and then tired and hungry, they returned to our apartment to eat, sleep, and catch up on their email.  My living room was a sea of bedding, laptops and clothing, and for a week, I was their mother- cajoling them into eating more vegetables, picking up their empty glasses and joining in their banter.  For their farewell dinner, I made lentil soup.  Nate, filling his bowl a second time, pronounced it was the best he’d ever had.   Nothing warms the heart of a mother, surrogate or otherwise, more than filling the bellies of her loved ones. 

The next morning, there were hugs all around and then they were gone.  All that was left were deflated air mattresses  and a signed post card on the kitchen counter.   The place they had carved in my heart ached with emptiness.

So this morning, when I saw Nate’s picture on the TV screen and heard how he and sixty four others were killed by suicide bombers, my heart broke a bit.  The monster that Nate battled- the repugnant monster of strife and war and killing- ultimately took his life. 

You might think this is the end of the story, but we can make it a beginning.  Because of who Nate was, and who the others who share his vision are, the work will continue.  If half the people who heard Nate’s voice pick up where he left off, his song will continue. We can sing another verse.  We must sing another verse.  So Nate and his comrades in the war against hate will not have died in vain.

Today I’ll mourn but tomorrow, I’ll be in the alto section.  How about you?

“Come and sing a simple song of freedom

Sing it like you’ve never sung before

Let it fill the air. Tell the people everywhere

We the people here don’t want no war.” *

*”Simple Song of Freedom” by Bob Darin

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1 Comment

  1. I’m so sorry to read about this. How sad to know that this fine young man is gone. I pray that others will take up his cause. We need many like him.

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