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Update: What Happened to the Little Boy Oprah Couldn't Forget?
Posted: Sun 01/01/2012 10:15 AM
On today's show, you were reintroduced to Pam Cope, the Missouri mother of four who was inspired to rescue a little boy sold into slavery in Ghana after seeing his haunting face in The New York Times. Since then, Pam has been on a mission to help other children find freedom and safety. Find out how her life has changed since we last saw her and get an update on that very special boy, Mark.
Each year, I like to spend New Year's Day reflecting on the many things for which I am grateful, and today I'm particularly grateful for this chance to share an update on Mark Kwadwo, a very special little boy who has forever changed my life.
Mark was first introduced to the world five years ago as a 6-year-old slave in Ghana. For 12 hours each day, he worked on Lake Volta under brutal conditions, and the scars were obvious. Well, he is no longer that boy. Now, he is a happy, healthy 10-year-old with a dream of becoming a pilot, a talent for soccer and a fondness for Dr. Seuss. I've been back to visit him 14 times in these last few years, and every time I hear his contagious laughter or experience his resilience and kindness, I realize that in finding him, I have, in so many ways, found myself.
When I first shared my story, I hoped that doing so might help to change the lives of some of the 7,000 children who remain enslaved on the dark waters of Lake Volta. That has certainly happened. Through the generosity of complete strangers, our nonprofit organization, Touch a Life Foundation, has been able to rescue more than 90 additional children from slavery, ranging in age from 5 to 21. While each of them is now well on his way to recovery, the idea that there are still so many children enslaved in Ghana gets me up every morning and pushes me to keep working. We haven't saved every child—not yet—but it's a start.
But something else has happened that I never expected.
In 2009, Aimee Molloy and I published Jantsen's Gift: A True Story of Grief, Rescue, and Grace about the death of my 15-year-old son, Jantsen. The experience of losing Jantsen changed me deeply and led me to make an important choice: to live more simply and deliberately, to stop putting on appearances, to finally get honest with myself. It was these decisions that led me to Mark, and I've been so grateful to find that as others have read my story, they've found the courage to take a careful look at their lives and abandon some things that may never have really fit them, or were simply their way of trying to appear to be something they were not. Trust me, I know what it's like to be wrapped up in appearances, and I also know the true joy and freedom that comes with letting that go and getting real. To me, that is what it means to live a life of grace.
One of the greatest lessons I've learned these past few years came from an 11-year-old Ghanaian girl named Salamatu. She was orphaned and sent to live at a children's home. One day, she received stickers in the mail from an American couple. She was so excited about these stickers that she ran around showing everyone her gift. She wanted to write the couple a thank-you letter, and after she did, she took every single sticker that she'd received and plastered them on to the note. She gave away her entire gift. As I think about my life and everything I've faced since losing Jantsen, I've come to understand that maybe Salamatu can teach us all a lesson. Maybe the answer to life is to do what she did: to give recklessly and passionately to the point where people have to say: "You're crazy! That's enough! Stop giving!" And yet we go on, and we give some more. I firmly believe that in those acts of giving—when you have given away your very last sticker—you become open to receiving life's most tremendous blessings.
The opportunity to understand this, to finally feel more whole, to find my Mark...well, that has been Jantsen's gift. And what an amazing gift it has been.
May 2012 be a year of transformation, courage and grace—for all of us. And may you find a "Mark" of your own.
Happy New Year!