I am very excited to introduce my friend Sara Goff to all of you. Sara is a fellow writer and the founder of Lift The Lid, a charity that sponsors schools for the underprivileged. I’ve had a wonderful time getting to know her and her heart for children.
The Gift by Sara Goff
Friends of mine want to start a family, but they are unable to have children, and they feel overwhelmed by the process of adoption. As we spoke over dinner, they had so many questions and doubts, including whether or not they would even be good parents!
I told them to take the first step, make the phone call, and see where it leads. They don’t have to know all the answers; we can’t know all the answers. “The idea is there,” I told them. “Follow it and see how far you get.”
This advice has taken my life down rough and yet rewarding roads that have led me far beyond my own wishes or goals. One example was in 2006 when I applied to a writing workshop in Kenya through Summer Literary Seminars. I’d never been to Africa before. My husband and family thought it was risky, and for the first time in my life my grandmother told me not to do something. But the idea came to me to apply and I figured, why not? See what happens.
I was accepted into the program on a partial fellowship and booked my flight to Nairobi. My only expectations were that I would be working with writers from around the world, and I would feel like a foreigner. Vaccinated and my passport up-to-date, I followed the idea to Kenya.
Two weeks into the workshop, I took a break from critiquing manuscripts and joined a tour group at the last minute to see what life was like outside of the city.
The bus stopped on a windy cliff overlooking a gently sloping valley, a picture of paradise. Below the animal-shaped clouds and shifting sun, a cluster of Maasai children and a few women sold handmade jewelry. One young girl with a slender face and big eyes, who I later learned was seven years old, stared at my long, curly hair with pure fascination and some trepidation. I held out a lock for her to touch and very cautiously she did and smiled. She wore a dress similar to a burlap sack and was barefoot, and like all the other girls, her hair was shaved to her head.
She said her name was Marjorie, and she lived about eight kilometers in that direction. (I think she gestured east.) So about a 5-mile walk. Barefoot? When I asked if she attended school, she shook her head no. I bought what jewelry I could from her, imagining her arranged marriage the day she turned thirteen. She continued to show me more jewelry, and I showed her my empty pockets. It was also time to go, so I reluctantly boarded the bus.
“Ms.,” she called out in her sweet voice. Turning around, I found her warily climbing the steps of the bus, holding a bracelet I had admired. “I’m sorry,” I told her, again opening my shilling-less pockets. “No money.” She could’ve sold me the world, if I had brought more cash. She held out the bracelet. “For you,” she said. “Gift.” Speechless, I reached for the bracelet and then watched her carefully step off the bus. I found my seat, buried my face in my hands, and cried like a child. My life at that moment was changed.
The following year I returned to Kenya to visit rural schools and orphanages. A few years after that I founded Lift the Lid, Inc., a charity that sponsors schools for the underprivileged and encourages the students to express themselves by publishing their poems and/or personal essays. Their voices give us endless inspiration. Am I glad I attended the workshop? Well, that one idea continues to shape my life.
I hope that my friends who are considering adoption, a dedicated and loving couple, will experience the ultimate joy of sharing their life with a child. If they can set aside their fears, they just might.
An idea is like a mystery seed; you have to plant it to find out what will grow.
* * *
Sara Goff is the founder/director of Lift the Lid, Inc., a nonprofit that sponsors schools in the developing world and encourages creative writing. She has published nonfiction in “Epiphany, a Literary Journal” and in the “SoHo Journal,” and has contributed to Crosswalk.com. She has attended Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has received fellowships to Summer Literary Seminars in Kenya and Russia. Before leaving New York City to spend time in Sweden and now London, she led writing workshops for the homeless and in inner-city schools.
Lift the Lid, Inc. website: www.lift-the-lid.org
Sara Goff webpage: www.saragoff.com
* * *
I hope you’ll take some time to browse the Lift the Lid website and read some of the children’s essays and view their artwork. You’ll be glad you did. Promise. ~Connie
So, what ideas do YOU need to plant?