Sometimes, words or phrases hit me so hard my brain thuds like it’s been whacked by a two-by-four. I seize up and wobble around a bit kind of like Daffy Duck getting hit with a mallet. This recent request did that to me: Can You Please Put This In Your Dreaming?
It walloped me so hard because I know the story behind the young man who wrote this to me. His name is Philip Deng. Maybe. He’s not real sure what his name is because his parents were killed in Sudan when he was an infant. His eight-year-old brother picked him up and ran into the bush. He spent the next eight years of his life foraging for food and shelter with 20,000 other children like himself – the Lost Boys of Sudan.
These children hid in the dense African bush and roamed to refugee camps from Sudan to Ethiopia to Kenya. To give you a scale of that in the US, it would be like ranging from deep Texas all they way north to the Canadian border and scattering from Colorado to Kentucky. Half of them died.
After many years, some, like Phillip, were brought to America. The largest group -7,000 former Lost Boys of Sudan- is in Omaha, Nebraska.
Philip’s wife still lives in Sudan and he hasn’t seen her in years. He works hard to send money to her (this is called a remittance and is a huge business for Western Union and cell phone carriers). But with the latest conflict in Southern Sudan, he’s not sure she’s alive.
I met Phillip years ago when I was working on the Kansas Hunger Dialogue. I visited him at a restaurant in Kansas City and had to strain to listen to his soft voice and heavy Swahili accent. Although I didn’t understand all his words, his gentle demeanor was in stark contrast to the horrors he had witnessed. In fact, psychologists say that the Lost Boys are the most emotionally wounded people of any war. Phillip quickly became one of my huggable heroes.
Shortly after I met Phillip, I had a meeting in DC with the Ambassador from Sudan. A very tall, gangly man, he stretched our 30-minute meeting into an hour-and-a-half history lesson on Sudan. He told me that South Sudan was going to achieve independence and he was going home to help lead the new nation. On his desk that day was a book he had been reading about the founding fathers of America. It was not a history book to him of American independence; it was a contemporary political manual.
I haven’t heard from Phillip for a while but he reached out to me last week.. This is what he wrote as he asked if I could send food: could you please put this into your dreaming. it seems to me as the same situation that I was before for the people are in run now.
I’ve been told to have sweet dreams, but I don’t know that anyone has ever given me something specific to put in my dreams.
But I can think of no better dream than to dream of ways to feed the starving people. Somebody needs to dream for them because the world they live in is a nightmare beyond hell.
What would you ask me to put it into my dreaming?