Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Sifting Through Souvenirs -September 15, 2009

Souvenir. A token. A keepsake. A memento. A recollection. These definitions bring to mind the tacky tourist offerings of airport gift shops. Inadequate definitions to describe the memories presenting themselves one before the other in rapid succession when I’m awake and when I’m asleep. The memories that keep me from feeling fully at home although I am so thankful to be reunited with the family I love. These memories have become mantras in my mind not to forget the lessons that I’ve witnessed and been part of. A country rich in resource and yet economically devastated. A people group that is both physically and spiritually beautiful in a way I’ve never experienced. A poverty that surpasses anything I have imagined or experienced anywhere else in the world. A wealth that surpasses physical and material wellness that I would never have expected in such large measure. A village of children filling its dirt pathways with their smiles, their voices, their hunger and their loneliness. A handful of volunteer care givers that give so sacrificially that their gratitude and love for me at times grated in my conscience like fingernails on a chalkboard, knowing I have never given so sacrificially even to my own most beloved friends and family the way they give to the sick and the dying and the orphaned.Almost hopeless to find an adequate definition, I stumble upon it in the French translation. Souvenir: noun. An heirloom. And so the memories begin to line up. The cacophony of stories begging to be told begin to file into a resemblance of order as they filter through the definition. An heirloom. A treasure to be passed down through the generations. I have stumbled on something valuable that will be handled with great care. In time, to be passed along to family and friends and even acquaintances. A mind full of jewels to be distributed with great responsibility and love to those in my life who will be given the responsibility and honor of caring for those jewels until it is their turn to pass them on. Never have I felt such relief at definition. So prepare to inherit these stories. There are many variations of heirlooms, some are so filled with hope and joy that it will buoy you through a dismal afternoon in a way you’ve never experienced. Some are so heartbreakingly beautiful that the face of a small girl will move you to tears once you learn her name and the value of her embrace in the wake of what her days involve. These heirlooms come with accountability. I have never felt so responsible for words or stories. There is nothing material that I would acquire that would compare to the value of the heirlooms I’ve been entrusted to pass on. You have an inheritance coming in the words and stories I will share with you. It comes with responsibility and the caution that they will likely cause you heartache and joy that will result in a changed perspective and the added caution that you may have to check your value system if they don’t. It will take time to sift through these heirlooms. I don’t want to miss any that may have been hidden in the drawers or safe deposit boxes of my mind. I want you to have full access to the inheritance that I have received from Zambia. Be patient as you anticipate the inheritance. Be prepared to react and then act… these are jewels to be weighed and worn…not to be hidden away in security and obscurity. Right now I am weighed down by their beauty and their heaviness. I am looking forward to sharing this weight amongst my friends and family so we can all wear their beauty and bear their weight together.

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