Love... A Choice?

Amonyesh at the Drop-In Center

Do you know how some children are just lovable the first time you lay eyes on them? I have that experience a lot here in Ethiopia as I meet the children that CHE ministers to. There’s Begidu, who may possibly be the cutest little boy ever or Metu who instantly charms you with her smile and jovial personality. Love for them just came easy for me, despite some of their very unlovable behaviors.

There are other children though, who seem hard to love at first. Maybe it’s their appearance, or their expressions, or their defensiveness – I’m honestly not always sure why. One such child for me was Amonyesh. I remember the first time I met her. She came into the Drop-In Center one day in 2008 and wanted me to push her on the tire swing and I did not want to (I know, how childish!). I was already playing with some of the other children, but I decided to stop what I was doing and push her on the swing.

It was that way up until about a month ago; always choosing to show her attention and love despite not really wanting to. Then, one day in January she came up to me with her big smile and asked me to treat her already healed wound (a common occurrence at the Center, especially for Amonyesh) and something changed. I actually felt love for her. As I faux-treated her healed wound I noticed how sweet Amonyesh was and how funny she could be. I felt like I had been missing something the whole time I’d known her. I honestly do not know what changed other than the fact that I had persistently chosen to show her love despite not feeling like it and finally the feelings followed.

Just last week I got the chance to visit with Amonyesh’s mom and two sisters in their small one room home. Amonyesh told me that she wanted to be a doctor one day so she could help poor people in Ethiopia. I asked her what influenced this decision and her response surprised me. She said it was because of people, like me, who helped her with her wounds and when she was sick. All those times when I begrudgingly cleaned her minor (and I mean very minor) wounds really had impacted her. In that instant I had an ah-ha moment and the saying, “Love is not just a feeling, but it’s a choice,” finally made real sense to me. Thank God I had chosen to love Amonyesh when I had not wanted to, otherwise I would have missed out on finding her friendship and even playing a part in inspiring her to also love others.