Key West, Fl
June 20, 2017
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU WALK IN THE TRENCHES
I’m home from a month in Africa. After two successful weeks in Kenya with the best volunteer team ever, three amazing ladies, Kirsten, Edee, Cathy and myself continued on a journey crisscrossing the continent in a pursuit to strengthen Project Humanity’s mission.
As part of the voyage, I took a small leave of absence from social media. I’ve had some friends do it over the years – and boy was it refreshing. Most of the time I didn’t have reliable WIFI which contributed to the successful sabbatical.
I went thirty days without a day off. In Tanzania and on Zanzibar, and in Zambia and South Africa, I met women and men who are sacrificing so much to bring love and hope to their communities. My friends and I, we shook the hands of man building shelves for a hoped-for library on Mfangao Island, and in Livingstone broke bread with a nun helping women overcome drug addiction and prostitution. These are people who don’t dream of doing something to create hope for others – they are ordinary people who open their homes, their purses, and give of their skills and their hearts without first giving thought to measuring return on investment – they just give. They don’t have to dream of doing heroic acts because they are already living as heroes within their community.
Often, I have struggled to put into words why I love Africa so much. I, like many, do love the kids – their smiles, their playfulness, and their genuine curiosity of the world around them. I loved encountering the warmth of the many communities that welcomed us, we total strangers, into their lives. I cherish the friendships I’ve made, and the expanded family I’ve acquired. But, it’s something more.
I have fallen in love with the fact that so many people I met gave without the expectation of receiving any fanfare in return. They sacrifice to the point of not eating so that others can have. They don’t take photos of their activities and post them online to see how many “likes” they can attract or how many “shares” they will garner. They don’t create elaborate schemes to build themselves up – their gift of giving is unconditional and without expectation.
For 30 days Twitter was silent and YouTube was off. In Africa, our small wandering tribe found voice and engaged in conversations that were real, personal, and meaningful.
The cities and market places throughout Africa are chaotic, and loud, and yes, many problems abound. But beyond the social issues, at the human level, most people I’ve met have what I’ve always sought in life: they are real. And yes, many of my friends who perform life-saving and cause-driven work struggle. Profoundly they struggle to overcome challenges, justify any measures of costs, and to find validation. They face hurdle after hurdle and I’m proud to stand with them for they too are seeking to break through noise and to promote a peace within and around themselves. I’d rather have no likes or shares and stand with people who believe in a cause bigger than themselves than to ride the wheel of trying to find position and worth.
My small tribe and I are home now and in they days and weeks to come, and in our hearts and minds, we’ll struggle with straddling and reconciling between two very different cultures. And as I have after every trip, I will seek to learn and to share what I’ve experienced with grace and humility. And when the noise of my native culture begins to overtake the sounds of the other, I and my band of volunteers will again return to the people of Africa.
Life in the trenches. Be Brave, friends!