How an 8-year-old boy’s resolve made it possible for an African Legionary to visit his family.
By Br Russell Ward, LC
My name is Br Russell Ward, and I am studying to be a missionary priest with the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire, CT. As much as I would like to be the hero of this story, I have to humbly admit that the part I had to play was very little. You see, I come from a family of seven children; I happen to be the oldest. Well, my youngest brother who is eight is quite a character. His name is Nathan, but we all call him Nate. Nothing extraordinary at first glance, but it is what lies within that is amazing.
My family came to visit me for a few days one summer. After Mass one morning, all the brothers were walking out of the chapel, and Nate was pointing at a few of them and asking me who they were. He pointed to the only African brother in our community, Br Otti Okello from Uganda, and asked me who he was. “That’s Br Otti,” I
“That’s far away isn’t it?” he asked.
“Yeah, pretty far away.”
“Does he ever get to go home like you?”
“Well, he hasn’t been home for a long time. I think it costs a lot of money to fly to Africa.”
“I can get the money for him,” Nate replied.
“I don’t know, Nate. That is a lot of money.”
“Maybe around a thousand dollars.”
“I think I can get it.”
That was the end of our short discussion, and the visit with my family went on. By the time they left, I had forgotten entirely about the conversation with Nate.
When my family called a few weeks later, I realized that though I had forgotten about Br Otti, Nate had not; in fact, he was really on fire about raising the money for him. My whole family was telling me about how Nate was going around with my two younger sisters, Molly and Maria, selling Tootsie Rolls that my grandma would give them. He sold them for over a dollar a piece. Though the price was outrageous, Nate’s plea was irresistible, and many bought the Tootsie Rolls. By the end of the week he had around ten dollars. I was amazed, but then again, what was ten dollars when he needed a thousand?
But Nate wasn’t satisfied with ten dollars, and Tootsie Rolls weren’t working fast enough. He then tried a lemonade stand which didn’t
Nate then asked the parish priest, Fr Steve, to announce his plan during Mass one day and to take a second collection. Nate brought in three hundred more dollars. Going to another parish, he took advantage of a rummage sale to host a bake sale of his own, and made another hundred which made for a total of five hundred and fifty dollars. He was already more than halfway and only a month and a half had passed.
At this point, the story had spread and, marveling at the courage and generosity of this eight year old, people began to send him money by mail. Soon he was up to eight hundred dollars. A 4th of July refreshment stand, together with a few other events, brought in another three hundred, and Nate had over a thousand dollars within a few months.
My family had been sending me updates by mail, and I couldn’t believe that Nate had actually done it. With every letter it seemed that Nate had made a hundred dollars more. In three months he raised more money than I’ve had in my whole life. Perhaps when I was eight, I could have raised six bucks for myself to get a video game, but Nate had raised fifteen hundred dollars
After he had the money, my family asked me what to do; I had little clue what to do next. I told them to get in touch with Br Otti’s superiors since he had moved on to the center of philosophy in New York. That is what they did, and after a month or so Br Otti gave me a call. “Br Russell, I hear your little brother has done something amazing for me.”
“Yeah. Can you believe that? I don’t know how he did it, but are you going to be able to go home?”
“Of course. I will be visiting for a couple of weeks in December. You know, I always loved to study physics, but I wished I had studied better the art of practical physics which your Nate has mastered, that is, the physics of charity.”
Well, there you go. This is what an eight year old can do when he sees the needs of another and doesn’t let any obstacles get in his way.
Br Otti went home for his family visit before Christmas.