Childlike, not childish

“Sijui amekuwa na hii shida for how long. Unajua nilienda kumchukua kutoka kwa babake. Nikauliziaulizia anapoishi for a month then nikaenda last week Friday na kumchukua kutoka kwa nyumba yao.”

I thought it would be best to have it written down as was said just for the effect but here’s a translation for those who may not understand; “I don’t know how long she’s had this problem. You know, I went to get her from her father’s place. I’d asked around for where they lived for a month and last week Friday, went to get her back from their home.”

Get her back. This was among the first things this mother told me as I took a history from her that morning. It was the day of my Pediatric rotation exam for history taking and general examination. I didn’t know what was in store for me considering we had such little time to ask so much…but all I know is that this is a story I shall retell forever. So let me get to it.


With each question I asked, the mother lovingly looked at her daughter and at some point, even beckoned to her to kiss her. What beautiful communication touch confers. Mother and child reunited. The little girl was oblivious to what happened around her, except when it concerned food and a white coat. Trust me, I don’t know what association our white lab coats have with danger but whoa…I couldn’t even touch her without her flinching at the thought that I’d inflict pain to her. Yet I was just checking her pulse! And you should know how hard it is to take a pulse rate reading in children. The moment you think you’ve got it and start counting, they move their hand and you have to start again! A minute has never seemed longer other than in the midst of taking either a pulse or respiratory rate reading on a child. I’m not complaining though. She was a beauty to behold. Calmly drinking her yoghurt, she probably had no idea of what had happened to her in the past month and that was simply astounding.


It’s always a wonder what love can do; bring two people together with a momentary standstill of the earth. Staring into each other’s eyes and whispering sweet nothings to one another.  Well, that’s not the type of love I’ll talk about today, as is so often depicted. Mine is the love that searches for a lost heart for days on end without giving up.

As the mother narrated to me how the father of the child had run away with her, I was dismayed. It felt like a scene out of a movie unfolding before my eyes. Not a happy scene that leaves you at ‘Aaaaw!’, but those that leave you wondering what kind of madness is in the world. Why would you run away with a child, go to a new home with a new wife who doesn’t even take care of the child but instead leaves her unattended to, underdressed and with no food? Why in the world would somebody do that?

The mother narrates her month long search in Kibera slums, asking around for where he’d moved to and gathering the courage to take her daughter back from him. The particulars of the retrieval of the baby, I don’t know. Perhaps because I took a moment to take it all in and forgot to ask. Despite the severe diarrhoea, signs of malnutrition and generalized body swelling, that’s not what I was worried about. The scars all over her body are what drew me back. Why do this to a child? Why run away with her when you can’t take care of her? And more so, what is this you did to her that left her scarred all over? :/

I was trying to contain myself from boiling over in a mix of confusion and anger yet the most intriguing thing is that, as the mother narrates all this to me, there is no tinge of vengeance in her voice. Her heart overflows with joy of getting her daughter back…seeing her cry for food once again…seeing her slowly regain her weight and call her ‘mama’ once again.


I reiterate, love knows no bounds. It soothes a heart. It is patient and kind, not jealous and doesn’t boast. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered and it keeps no record of wrongs. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

Yet we’re so afraid to show it. Or let me speak for myself, I am. I won’t ask my friend what’s wrong even though he looks sad in the name of ‘giving him space to calm down’. I won’t offer to buy someone lunch without hoping they’d do the same for me some day in the future. Or rather, it’s not something I’d do naturally. Yet this mother and the lady she shares the room with at the ward are more than willing to do life together. There are some questions I asked and the other lady chimed in to answer as if it was her own child, offering a better description on what the mother was trying to explain. She funnily commented on how the little girl had such a huge appetite that day, leaving us all in giggles. 🙂 “Hii uji kweli itatutosha sote vile anakunywa leo? Appetite imeongezeka kwelikweli!” (Will this porridge really be enough for all of us today with the way she’s drinking hers? Her appetite has surely increased!) Soon after this, she offered to go hang both their clothes outside since the mother was held up by me taking her child’s history. Yet, they’d only known each other since their children were admitted one week ago.

Perhaps with time I will share more stories that I come across while at the hospital. Where a young girl with recently diagnosed leukemia and currently on chemotherapy can still smile and say “I’m fine” in spite of the pain she’s going through. Where the boy you clerked almost a month ago smiles at you in the corridor on his way to the procedure room. Where this little boy who has no parents but has the hospital as his home, runs up to you every day and asks for a pen so that he can draw something new each time; a snake, bicycle, train…who knows what he’ll be drawing next? 🙂pexels-photo-94990


No wonder Jesus said the kingdom of heaven is made of such as these. My prayer now is for Jesus to help me not to be childish, but child-like.


Grace and peace.


PS- My brothers are just the bomb! The cover photo is of my smallest brother and I. He’s very smart and mature for his age. Our little Einstein. 🙂