How Is Your Attitude? A Lesson Learned From the Watoto Children’s Choir
My family recently had the opportunity to host members of the Watoto Children’s Choir, a group of children and adults from Uganda that travel the world in Christian Evangelism. The Choir travels throughout the U.S. to advocate for the estimated 50 million children in Africa, orphaned as a result of HIV/AIDS, war, poverty and disease.
The Watoto Choir was scheduled to visit our Church and needed volunteer host families to provide homes for the children and their chaperones to sleep for the night. We volunteered weeks before the event, and as the day quickly approached we found ourselves extremely busy with our kids’ activities, my birthday, and other commitments. I began to regret volunteering for the task.
On Saturday, the day we were scheduled to host, I woke up at 6:00 am and worked in the yard and the house all day. I was exhausted by the time I went to the Church at 9:30 pm to greet the Choir. They did not arrive until after 10:00 pm because they were traveling from an earlier performance in Indianapolis. Their large tour bus pulled in with a huge trailer in tow. Three adults stepped out of the bus with big smiles, and a young woman greeted us with, “Thank you for hosting us!”
We proceeded to help the adults, a group of men of women in their early 20’s, set up their stage equipment. They were all very polite and patient as I stumbled around and tried to assist them in the process. I think I was more of a hindrance, but they were very gracious and kind as we worked to finish the set-up process.
When it was about time to head home, the children began filling the sanctuary. They were all neatly dressed in black uniforms with overnight bags hanging off their backs. They were full of energy and bright smiles. We received a quick briefing from the Choir Liaison on what was expected of us and then were assigned our group. I stepped forward when my name was called and was greeted by my three kids – Asruf (12 years old), Timothy (12 years old), Brian (10 years old), and their chaperone, Michael (24 years old).
The boys hugged me and thanked me for hosting them for the night. Michael shook my hand and thanked me as well. We arrived at our home just before midnight. The boys walked in and took off their shoes, and neatly placed them next the door. They met my wife, Alia, hugged her and thanked her for hosting us. We offered them a snack before bed, which they gratefully accepted. They sat down and waited for us to bring them food, at which time Michael blessed the food. Michael and I engaged in a fun and lively discussion while the boys eagerly ate their snack.
The boys were polite and fun to talk with at the dinner table. They smiled, laughed, and asked me thoughtful questions. They listened and obeyed Michael and were ready for bed by the time I showed them their room. Michael and I discussed what time we would meet for breakfast and he thanked me again for hosting them. We did not hear them the rest of the night, nor did I hear a peep from them in the morning, I almost forgot they were in our house!
The next morning, I was sitting in the kitchen as Alia made the final preparations for breakfast. Michael and the boys appeared at the exact time we discussed the night before. They were neatly dressed with warm smiles. The boys were eager to meet my children, Ashley, Ryan and Adrian. They hugged my kids and thanked them for allowing them to stay in our home. They laughed and danced with each other in the living room while Alia put the food on the table.
Soon it was time for me to take them back to our Church, so they could prepare for the performance in a few hours. Unfortunately, I was going on a business trip and could not attend. When I dropped them off at the Church, they again hugged me tight and thanked me multiple times for our hospitality. I waved goodbye and drove off to the airport feeling great about the experience.
That night, after I settled into my hotel room, I called back home to speak with Alia and ask how the performance went with the Watoto Children’s Choir. Alia began to share with me how beautiful the performance was and how heartbreaking their story was as well. I found out that the children were orphaned due to losing their parents to war and disease and they live in shacks and horrible conditions back in their homes. Alia then began to share what she found in the room they stayed in at our house. She told me how they had folded all the linens and towels they used, let the air out of the air mattresses and neatly folded and placed them in the corner of the room. She was shocked at how they meticulously cleaned the area.
I was touched by the experience, even more so after I discovered their back story and what they represented. Their gratitude was unmatched and inspiring. Ashruf, Timothy, and Brian had lost so much at such a young age, yet they showed unbelievable courage, grace, and gratitude. They were thankful for every moment they stayed with us and were not afraid to share it.
The next day, at my hotel, I sat down for breakfast and overheard a woman complaining to her friend that her coffee was too hot and she was annoyed that she had to wait for it to cool down. I looked over at the woman who was dressed in expensive clothing and wore fine jewelry. My thoughts drifted back to the boys from Uganda that I spent a few hours with a day earlier. She had everything, yet seemed bitter and annoyed. Those children had very little, yet were grateful for every moment. They inspired me to be more grateful for what I have and not focus on what I don’t have. They impacted me more then I impacted them and I am grateful for the experience.
If you want to learn more about the Watoto Children’s Choir, visit their website at http://www.watoto.com/the-choir