Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hanging On to the Best

I sometimes read the blog of a nurse who was working in West Africa with Mercy Ships. She’s now moving on to other adventures after spending several weeks in first world countries catching up with friends and family. Anyway, something she wrote recently caught my eye and put words to a lot of what I’ve been feeling during my time in the US this year. I don’t know what’s legal and what’s not as far as “publishing” what someone else has written when it comes to blogging, so I’ll paraphrase what she said instead of quoting it exactly. She said that she’s more afraid that she’ll lose her acute awareness of how out of touch with perspective so many in the first world are than she is of having to live with that awareness (which she referred to as guilt, actually); she said that she’s afraid she’ll become like so many who walk our streets and spend so much time and energy worrying about how many calories are in that over-priced latte and never once think about how many pounds of rice that money could buy in the third world (note: I am not judging people who buy over-priced lattes as that would be terribly hypocritical considering I have a definite weakness for delicious coffee myself; I’m talking perspective here). She said that losing this awareness would be losing the best part of herself.

I’ve now been home one month, and I’m determined to hang on to this awareness that I first really and truly experienced in Guatemala and then developed more acutely in Tanzania. And, you know, I really don’t think it’ll be too terribly hard for me to hang on to it; I actually think it would be harder for me to get rid of it because it is part of me now—part of who I am and part of who I want to be. I want to think of Bahati every time I make chapatis, my host family in Carchá every time I play Dutch Blitz, and my host family in Mexico City every time I sing “Caminemos en la Luz de Díos.” I want my first thought when someone says something about the game Follow the Leader to be of Sonnie, Cody, and the streets of Chichicastenango; I hope cemeteries always lead to thoughts of the bullet hole-ridden tombstones of the National Cemetery in Guatemala City in front of which people who crossed those in power were executed during the 36 years of civil war…and then I want those memories to lead to thoughts of the landfill and Zona 3 which neighbor the cemetery; playgrounds will always make me think of the hours spent pushing children on the swings at the City of Hope; I hope worship services without heart-felt dancing won’t ever seem quite complete; I pray that the song “Days of Elijah” will always take me back to a jeep filled with new friends bouncing down an unpaved road in the jungle of Alta Verapaz, Guatemala and that “Come Thou Fount” will always remind me of a welcoming church in the middle of that jungle and the circle of children who played with bubbles with us; no stunning sky will ever be able to compete with the one God spread over Tanzania, and I don’t think there could be more beautiful mountains than the ones in Guatemala. And I pray that hospitality will always remind me of the people and places who have stolen my heart--the many, many people who have so little and give so much, from welcoming, friendship, love, and acceptance to chai/coke and chapatis/tortillas, and I also pray that I will always offer that same hospitality to the people I encounter.

And, above all, I pray that all of these memories will not only stick with me close to the surface but will also make me live more intentionally no matter where I am and that God will not only allow me to make more memories but will also give me opportunities to share the memories.

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