Opening My Eyes, Moving My Hands

Valentino Achak Deng tells his story of his pieced together life after being forced out of his home in southern Sudan. Sure he’s alive, but it seems like not much else is/went too well for him. He grew up without his parents. Grew up in several refugee camps. Usually had just one meal a day. Loved ones died in abundance. He ends his book – What is the What  ( – with a proclamation to still tell stories.

“I will tell stories to people who will listen and to people who don’t want to listen, to people who seek me out and to those who run. All the while I will know that you are there. How can I pretend that you do not exist? It would be almost as impossible as you pretending that I do not exist.”

Ah, Achak, how often I pretend that you don’t exist. Be you the Lost Boy from Sudan. Or maybe you’re the orphans made to mine Uranium in the Grand Canyon. The refugee from Rwanda, Chad, Palestie, Irag, the Congo, or Nowhere.

What would my life look like, Achak, if I quit pretending? What if I watched a movie, read a story about someone’s horrible, atrocious, tragic, true-story life and actually did something? What if I figured a way to get in touch with them and invited myself into their life? What if someone really took hold of you, Achak, and invested, supported, and counseled you? I don’t know how to do these things, but i sure know good people that do.

What if a refugee of war, like yourself, had someone to teach you about air conditioning and healing, getting into college and grocery stores?

No, I don’t want you to lose your culture, dignity, pride, or anything for that matter. You’ve already lost too much. But if you’re in my ‘home’ country, away from your family and YOUR home, I sure can help. Can’t I?

What if you didn’t have to do that on your own? Not as a charity case. Yes, I have compassion (I think?), but I won’t lather you with pity. What, Achak, would our world feel like if we shared a house? What would our home feel like if I accepted that you existed and chose to share life with you?

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