The Importance of Rule-Breaking

Disclaimer: titled inspired by a conversation with Chelsea Haithcox.


Another week in Addis.

Danny, Abushe, and I color pictures about once a week at Missionaries of Charity. We color pictures of everything from Tarzan to bears to Aladdin and Jasmine. Most of the pictures we color are Disney characters. You really can’t blame me for the genius idea I was inspired to execute from these pictures.

On Monday, I snuck my laptop into the Home of the Dying. Technically, we are not allowed to bring movies or other media into the premises. So of course, I set up a mini-movie theater in one of the rooms to the side, stationed Bugali, the physical therapist, outside the door to let us know if any nuns happened to make the rounds, and invited all the guys in the wing in which I work – handicapped old men, handicapped boys, physical therapists, and volunteers. If you looked in our room through a window, you would see 9 wheelchaired males, a few walking guys, and me.

It was loads of fun. I brought Aladdin, and I loved watching the boys watch a fun movie – especially one where the characters looked familiar because they had colored them! My friend Abushe especially loved Abu, Aladdin’s monkey, and whenever Abu’s name was mentioned, Abushe would break out into giggles and grins. My friend Chelsea, upon hearing that, said that she could mentally envision Jesus sitting beside Abushe, just basking in the life and the pure fun of the moment. I agree wholeheartedly.

My friend Danny was so excited that in random moments during the movie, he would have a spasm of excitement, and almost jump out of his wheelchair (even though he can’t walk). Whenever he laughed so hard that he rocked back and forth during “A Friend Like Me,” the genie’s song, I couldn’t help but love the experience that was a result of breaking the rules.

I’ve never seen my boys so excited. They enjoyed every second of the movie, even though it was playing on a tiny laptop screen, even though you couldn’t hear it very well because of my pitiful speakers, even though many of them don’t speak English. The mere experience of sitting down to watch a fun, colorful movie was enough to bring my boys together in a common attitude of fun and love.

As the movie finished, I promised to continue the movie theatre tradition and continue to sneak movies into the Missionaries of Charity. They asked what movie was next week’s. I replied, “SIMBA!” Now whenever I walk into their wing, the boys glance at me, wheel over as fast as they can, and yell “SIMBA!” I promptly reply that they must learn patience and wait until Monday.

Technically, according to propriety and good thinking, no volunteers are supposed to get in bed with patients. This makes a lot of sense. However, one of my babies has stolen my heart, and I wish I could adopt him. His name is Abraham, and I call him Abrish (an Amharic suffix of affection). I can speak firsthand that just laying with him, cuddling his small, frail body, and loving a little boy that never gets touched, rarely receives a mother’s love, has meant more to both me and him than almost anything else I’ve done at the Home of the Dying. The physical therapists and other volunteers smile when they see me laying beside baby Abrish, stroking his face while he sleeps. They know that I adore him. He calls me “Mama,” and cries when I leave every day. I love him more than I’ve ever loved a child before. Another rule broken, another bit of love given.

If I stuck to the letter of the law, I would never have these experiences, never be able to give a little bit of love in a very special way. Little boys need lots of fun. Little babies need extra love. By breaking the rules, I am allowing them to gain what they so desperately need. By following the rules, I would be withholding these things from them.

Oh, the importance of breaking the rules, when, as Bono says, “Love is a temple; love is a higher law.”


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