Nothing set Mary apart from the other children waiting in line for their health assessments.
Most of the children at the orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, had never seen a doctor before—especially a North American doctor—and they whispered and giggled nervously while waiting their turn.
When Mary’s turn came, she walked in quietly. She jumped up and sat on the table with her big watchful eyes. In answer to his question, she told the doctor that she was 9 years old.
She didn’t say another word as the doctor checked her eyes, ears, throat, heart, lungs, abdomen, and extremities and pronounced her a healthy young lady. He then asked her if she had any questions. She shook her head no and hopped down.
At this point most children scurry off, relieved to have “survived” the exam and eager to compare notes with their friends. But Mary had something else on her mind.
As I filled in the information on Mary’s chart, I looked up to see her standing patiently by my table, waiting for me to finish. So I said, “Mary, do you have a question for me?”
“Yes,” she said, “Are you going to come back here tomorrow?”
Wondering where this was leading, I answered, “Yes, I will be back tomorrow.”
“Well,” Mary asked, “when you come back tomorrow, will you remember my name?”
Wow, that was not what I was expecting! Knowing that we would be seeing about 50 children that day, I quickly prayed, then answered, “Yes, Mary, I will remember your name.”
Then I reminded her, “You know, Mary, there is Someone who never forgets our names.” And just that quick she came back with, “I know Jesus knows my name, but I want you to remember it too!”
When we drove up the bumpy dirt alleyway to the orphanage the next morning, kids came spilling out of the doorway, waving and calling out greetings. However I didn’t see the child I was looking for.
“Lord, please help me recognize her!” I prayed. Soon we were again on the roof in our makeshift clinic. A cluster of another dozen children were waiting for us.
They greeted us noisily with big smiles and happy chatter—except for one child who stood quietly behind the others, watching. I walked to the back of the group, put my arm around her, and said, “Good Morning, Mary.”
Her face broke out in a radiant smile, and she said, “You did remember! Thank you!” as she returned my hug. I don’t know when I have been more touched or humbled.
Two days later we had to say goodbye.
As we were taking group photos, Mary came up to me and asked if I was ever coming back to Kenya and to the orphanage. I told her I hoped God would allow me to come back because I loved her country, and I had come to love her as well.
Then she asked if I would take a picture of her “all by myself”—which I did. I told her I would keep this picture with her name on it so I would always remember her. It’s now framed and in my family room.
We left Kenya just before Christmas. I don’t know what gift, if any, Mary received at the orphanage, but she gave me something. She reminded me of the importance of treating each individual with dignity and respect. She makes me thankful each day that Jesus remembers my name!