The Power of Story—When Chance Comes Once

There is a phrase in Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk: amahirwe aza rimwe, which translates to “chance comes once.” When Rebeka had a chance to do something difficult and scary, we faced the challenges together. Now we’ve partnered again to share her story, so that others will be inspired to take chances that change lives.


by Meredith Davis
 

In the afterword of our book, Her Own Two Feet, my co-author Rebeka writes that the power of story to her means “her life will not be forgotten.” She’s right, lives are remembered when they are told as story. So often, it is not until a person is gone that we hear the fascinating details of their life in a eulogy or obituary. But sharing Rebeka’s story means more to me than ensuring Rebeka’s life will not be forgotten. Her story changed me, and our hope is that it will change others, too.

 

Her Own Two Feet tells the story of Rebeka Uwitonze, who was born in Rwanda with curled and twisted feet, and her journey to America where she lived with me for the chance to receive treatment. Rebeka took a chance when she left her family to come to America at age nine for corrective surgeries, treatments and therapies. If the young girl in my home could come to a foreign country with no English to live with strangers, surely I could be brave, too. For me, bravery meant taking on uncertainty and giving up some freedoms to care for a child with disabilities for almost a year. It meant giving a piece of my heart to a child who I knew would someday return to her family in Rwanda. We shared picture books at night, she helped me make pancakes, I wiped yucky medicine off her tongue, rubbed her scars and stayed by her side through many months of physical therapy.

 

Living that story gave us both the courage to partner to write Rebeka’s story, though we live on different sides of the ocean. I was inspired by books like A Long Walk to Water, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, and Emmanuel’s Dream. They do more than tell an amazing story, they inspire action. Those stories have helped to raise money for people in Sudan, Malawi and Ghana, and I’m certain they have inspired gifts of kindness and compassion far beyond donations. Readers’ prejudices have been hushed and preconceived notions crushed as they look beyond disabilities and poverty to see and honor other people and cultures.

 

Does the true story of one little girl have the power to broaden the narrative of Rwanda beyond the horror of the 1994 genocide that so many associate with this country? Can one girl’s decision to take a chance, turning her hardship into opportunity, inspire others to look for joy in the midst of suffering? My hope is that our book will move readers to compassion and action, to love others well, whether that person is the new kid at school, the neighbor from a foreign country, or the most recent news story of a refugee.

 

There is a phrase in Her Own Two Feet: A Rwandan Girl’s Brave Fight to Walk: amahirwe aza rimwe, which translates to “chance comes once.” When Rebeka had a chance to do something difficult and scary, we faced the challenges together. Now we’ve partnered again to share her story, so that others will be inspired to take chances that change lives.

 

Meredith Davis worked at an independent children’s bookstore and started the Austin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators before earning her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives and writes in Austin, Texas.
 



This article is part of the Scholastic Power of Story series. Scholastic’s Power of Story highlights diverse books for all readers. Find out more and download the catalog at Scholastic.com/PowerofStory. Check back on School Library Journal to discover new Power of Story articles from guest authors, including Alan Gratz, Debbie Rigaud, and more.

 

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