I’ve had a long week, I’ve gotta be honest. I arrived back from Africa Sunday night just before midnight, and Monday morning, I woke myself up at 8:30 so I could get back into a normal work routine. Since then, my body has been waking me up around 6am everyday, and around 10pm, I’m fighting sleep with every ounce of my being. And I’ve been working full days, especially the last few nights, doing Coffee 101s at the Roastery. I’ve got one tonight, one in the morning, and one tomorrow afternoon at Whole Foods. Non-stop since getting back.
And the point? Well, it’s kept me just busy enough to not be totally emotionally crushed by what I saw in Uganda. It’s kept my mind too busy to really take hold of the things that have and should, caused me to rethink my own life, my own priorities and what I’m putting my plow to on a daily basis. I remember the words of Sheila at the Good Shepherd’s Hope Orphanage, who told me, “When you get back, you’ll feel lots of things. You’ll probably be angry at a lot of things. But one thing you will need to remember, and that’s that the people and things you’re angry at haven’t seen the things you’ve seen. They don’t know the things you know now.” And you know what, she was right.
I was sitting in the living room of my cousin and her family, visiting, talking about our stories from our trip. And I noticed, for the first time, their couch. A nice leather couch. And then, I started looking around, and noticing all this stuff. And it seemed like SO much. For the first time. And it wasn’t that they are rich, they’re middle class. They’re not eccentric, they’re just a normal American family, in a normal American neighborhood, but it seemed like so much in comparison to what I’d seen in Uganda. It didn’t make me angry, it made me sad.
Then, I started thinking about my own life. I took a shower, turned the faucet on, and hot water and cold water mixed with good pressure, and it hit me. How much I’ve taken even things like this for granted, and for the first time, it actually made me feel guilty, that I had access to this. That I had food in a pantry, in a refrigerator, that I had access to a grocery store a block away where I could get anything I want. And more importantly, that I could go into my kitchen, turn on the faucet, and clean water comes out. I don’t have to walk a mile to get it, carrying 40 pound jerry cans. It’s right there.
And that feeling of guilt has been with me the past couple of days. And I’ve had to correct myself. For guilt isn’t the thing that will make the situation better. Compassion is. Compassion is the thing that takes the guilt I feel, and puts it into action. I’ve been trying to figure out how to reconcile what I saw, and how I live. Not justifying, but accepting, and thinking about what I can do to bring the things that are normal to me, closer to the things that will be normal for those I saw. And again, it’s driven by compassion. Compassion for my brothers and sisters from different mothers. Compassion for the children of Africa, children of a hopeful generation, where HIV/AIDS is being greatly reduced, and where water is becoming more available with each clean water well built.
And it’s that compassion that makes me desire to become even more involved in what Blood:Water Mission is doing. Partnering with the very people in those communities making a difference. Empowering Africans to change their destinies. With my own limited finances and time, it’s the best thing I can do. For I am but one, but along with many, we are able to make a huge impact. Africa is a big place. It’s very overwhelming thinking about all that needs to be done there. Living is hard. But even in the midst of that, there is joy that has sprung up from the hard clay ground. And it’s that joy that causes me to hope that we really can make a difference in that beautiful country.
I’ve got a day off on Sunday. April and I are planning on going to the mountains to pick apples, find a corn maze, and just enjoy a nice Fall day. We’ll probably talk about our trip, what we’re feeling, how it’s changing us, and what it means for us and our future. I can tell you that I want to find a way to get the stories out to more people. I can tell you I’d like to get more stories out, like the story of Plywood People, a local organization that’s empowering refugees and immigrants here in Atlanta. I’d like to get the story of Give Us Names out to more people, an organization that’s helping displaced Colombians. There are many stories that need to be heard. I’d like to figure out a way to inspire many others with what’s going on around the world, and challenging them to join alongside so many others. “The story” has become one of the most precious commodities to me, the thing I’m dwelling on, the thing that’s motivating me. Let it motivate you.