Respect the elders
In contrast to Joseph (mentioned in the previous blog), Vianney had a different answer to my question. Vianney is a Rwandan-American. He is working on building a non-profit, private medical school in Rwanda. He has been living in the U.S. for two decades and lost family during the genocide of 1994. In fact, he visited his home only four months before the genocide took place. He told me he warned his family to leave Rwanda at that time because he could see how dangerous and oppressive it had become. But just like frogs in boiling water, people could not see what Joseph saw until it was too late.
Vianney tells me that our elderly have so much to offer. He does not like how Americans throw away their greatest resource. I think many of us agree, but we cannot figure out a system that works well. In Rwanda, there is great sorrow when an elderly person dies. It is as if the entire wisdom of a community has disappeared.
By the way, the median age in Rwanda is 18. Over half of Rwanda’s population is too young to contribute productively to society. It is a great burden to shoulder. And Rwanda has the highest percentage of orphans in the world: 20%. Wow.
When we touched down, I nearly began to cry. My lovely wife and I held hands very tightly. We knew we were home. What is it about Rwanda that is so magical? It is so very beautiful here: the foliage, the sky at night, the occasional smiles, the smell of the air, the determination of the people. Somehow I know that Rwanda has something to offer us all. The spirit of Rwanda is unique. And deep down, I know I need it . . . Not just me – WE need it.