Written by Carrie Underwood for the Chicken Soup for the American Idol Soul
I have always been grateful to American Idol for all the amazing things that have happened in my life over the last two years, but I’ve never been more grateful for anything than having been allowed to be a part of Idol Gives Back.
It was a hot, muggy day when we visited a South African clinic. Tau was four years old and enjoying his time playing with the toys on the floor of the clinic waiting room. His mother and grandmother were with him, watching him fit the letters onto a brightly colored foam puzzle. They seemed so proud of him and made a fuss every time he completed the alphabet. He seemed like a typical young child in his overalls and lime-green shirt, only perhaps a bit shy–and sad.
Though he was only four, I believe he knew that being there wasn’t a good thing.
The situation in this South African clinic is one that far too many children and families have to experience.
I tried to talk with Tau. I asked him his name and how old he was, the typical conversation one has with a small child. I smiled as I spoke to him, and he smiled back, seeming only a little nervous.
The nurse walked in and called Tau’s name. We all got up to follow her. We were led to a small white room with one window and diagrams on the walls. There was a table in the center that held alcohol, cotton swabs, small metal tools, and other doctors’ instruments. Close to the edge of the table were two little packages lying side by side.
When we sat down, the doctor explained what she was about to do. Tau nodded when she told him that she was going to prick his finger. He seemed confident and calm, but the doctor was worried that he would cry and make the task difficult, so she asked the boy’s mother to comfort him as she took the various objects out of their sterile packages.
Tau didn’t move a muscle as the doctor pricked his tiny index finger. There were two small, square plastic test plates. The tests were very much like pregnancy tests, and the doctor was looking at lines. A certain number of lines would mean the was negative, while another number would mean it was positive. The results, she said, would appear in about ten minutes.
Those ten minutes seemed like eternity.
Again, I tried to talk to Tau. I told him what a good job he did and what a brave little boy he was. He smiled and shook his head no when I asked him if it hurt. He held the bandage over his finger. He seemed proud of himself for being so brave and enduring such a mighty pain.
When the ten minutes were up, the doctor looked at the tests, then back at all of us waiting patiently for the results. Without hesitation, she delivered the difficult news: this tiny, sweet, young boy was HIV-positive.
The doctor explained that he should start his medications right away and would need to come back for frequent follow-up visits. She explained that it was very possible for Tau to live a normal life. But I could feel my heart break. I could only imagine what his family must have been feeling.
To think that this precious little boy did nothing wrong. He was kind, smart, and so adorable. Yet, he had this virus that could potentially cause him so much suffering and even end his life long before his time.
We left the clinic that day lost in our own thoughts. The boy and his family had to deal with this horrible news. And I began to think about my life and the great fortune I’ve had.
Like Tau, I have done nothing to deserve the things that I have stumbled upon in my life. The only difference is that I get the chance to have a full life.
Neither one of us did anything right or wrong. It’s just the hands we each were dealt.
The purpose of our trip was for us to visit the poorest areas of South Africa and give back to these people. Hopefully, we changed many of their lives for the better.
Because of my time with Tau, his family, and all the beautiful people of South Africa, my life has been changed forever. I now appreciate each day I have on this Earth so much more.
I never imagined when I agreed to go and “give back” that I would receive infinitely more that I could ever have given.