She called to me from the newsstand

Aduei Riak. Photo USAToday – article linked below.

Oh! We had such an exciting burst of drama yesterday on such an unlikely city streetcorner. My daughter, my partner, and myself were just crossing Hawthorne to head over to The Bagdad for a bite to eat when the woman on the cover of USA Today caught my eye. “That looks like Aduei,” I said to the others. “IT IS, MOMMA!” shrieked my girl, who has been babysat by Aduei, who simply adores children. I scrutinized the photo, which of course was a “fold” article, meaning all information was out of sight and requiring 75 cents to read. But the Aduei I know is even more beautiful than the lovely young woman I saw. “Naw, it’s not her. Let’s go eat.”

I graduated last spring with Aduei Riak, whom I knew through our mutual anthropology classes at Brandeis. She is the kindest, gentlest, most generous, intelligent soul. Very tall and slender, so that her clothes always seemed specially designed to make her look regal, though to speak with her was a reminder that she is happy to be welcomed into any group and is filled with great love for anyone she can extend herself to.

Aduei at work. Photo credit USAToday – article linked below.

I am awed in her presence, due to her extraordinary journey in life and the challenges she has overcome in order to become as full a human being as she is. She rarely talks about her past, and I don’t ask. I don’t want to ask her to relive the horrors of being separated from her family in Sudan as a child, walking hundreds of miles with other starving children, swimming across a river hoping not to be one of the children eaten by a crocodile, and drinking their own urine because of the lack of water, to end the journey growing up in a refugee camp, where conditions were not much better but at least there were grownups around.

After we ate, and walked back across the street, the photo again caught my eye, and I had not been looking for it. No one was carrying change, so my girl and I waited by the paper stand while my partner ran into a nearby store to get some quarters to solve the mystery. Finally my daughter popped in three quarters and we had it! It is, indeed, my beautiful friend Aduei.

Hopefully the link works.

If only we could all have the strength and inner beauty that this woman has. She still manages to focus outward, on others, when she is the warrior hero of an epic tale. She does not lose sight of how people had to work together to provide her with opportunities, and she takes those opportunities with tremendous grace and humility, and then pushes them to their limits so that the accomplishment becomes all her own. Then she looks for what else she can do.

How often do I find myself genuinely grateful for all the loads of help I’ve had? Aduei can be my inspiration today.

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