It's -9 and grey here in Saskatoon. The fence posts are fuzzy this morning with frost and the colour of the flowers left in the garden has been diminished by a painting of white. The leaves, those that didn't change their hues, lost their last chance this morning and now hang dismally, as if ashamed of their procrastination. Holding on to summer isn't an option around here.
I can hardly blame the leaves for their desire to cling to summer's brightness and liveliness. It's beautiful work to display the best of ourselves in greenery and growth and fruit. Fall's beauty is fleeting yet glorious, like the retelling of the stories of what summer has brought out. Fruit is abundant, literally falling off the branches at the slightest provocation. A long fall or Indian summer, as we still call it here in the prairies, prolongs the beauty into a place where it finds us feeling extremely blessed, knowing that winter is just around the corner. The downside of an Indian summer is that the corners are sharp, such as this morning. Frost sneaks up in the night, although it has teased us for weeks, the warm days and sunshine have lulled us into thinking maybe we can stretch this out right into December.
I feel like the frost of our time in Africa has painted this morning for me. When we first returned from Africa, there were many opportunities to catch up with people and tell some of the stories of all that we experienced. Our summer was amazing, I felt like we found a groove here in Saskatoon, particularly in our own neighbourhood, that we fit back into...good friends for both us and the boys. We spent a lot of time as a family, perhaps weaning ourselves a little from the four months of 24/7 companionship but still, just enjoying life together as four and a dog. I know too, that what we found on returning was a renewed appreciation for the exceptionally comfortable life we live in North America. The kids played out past dark, running through the neighbourhood (and a lot of neighbours' yards...my apologies) long past the time that the street lights came on. Even the fact that street lights come on didn't go unappreciated by me this summer. There's much to be thankful for.
As summer lingered and became a beautiful fall, so did our stories from Africa. We headed back to the rink and to a whole group of friends and acquaintances and fellow bleacher sitters that were curious about our trip and graciously allowed us to retell our stories. Even last night, we ran into former teammates' parents that told us they been keeping an eye out for us to hear about our time away. This is the beauty of our autumn.
So, the winter of our experiences looms and it has me thinking the same thing I think each time I return from Africa. Now what? Well, to be honest, the first thing I think, even before I leave Africa is generally, when can I get back here? So, in the meantime, now what? What do we do with those experiences as the beauty and colour and freshness of it fades? We are responsible for what we've seen and though I know that, I have to consistently remind myself of it. I also want to make the boys mindful of it without it becoming a dripping faucet of nagging in their world.
The work of winter begins in us. The things unseen and without photographic proof, the work that goes into the roots of who we are and how we've changed and what we've committed to. Behind the scenes of beautiful children and warm, welcoming women...there is so much work to be done. That is the winter that lies before me. A conscientious effort to make it routine to work on advocacy, building the wall of protection around these communities by raising awareness, funds, and the level of my own personal responsibility for what I've been a part of.
The children and their care workers are never far from my thoughts and never, ever out of my heart. I can conjure an image of a particular child or care worker simply from a waft of smoke in the air that brings me back to the burning season in Zambia. The smell of oil heating in a pan puts me back in the community with our kids in Share, cooking over an open fire of branches collected from neighbouring land.
In this season, I hope that the work that I do not only deepens my responsibility but also challenges those of you who have been captivated by the work, to deepen yours. Maybe you have a cause close to your own heart that keeps you awake or infringes on your daydreams the way that Hands at Work does mine. If so, embrace the coming season. Do the work at the roots and build a strong foundation of growth so that when spring arrives, we will once again be witness to the hope that new growth brings.
This winter, I'm committing to the following:
-Daily engagement with the work that we've been part of by keeping in communication with our care workers and volunteers at Hands at Work so that I can keep on top of what they are dealing with
-Praying daily for these workers
-Weekly hours spent working on advocacy and telling the stories of what we've seen and experienced
-Finding sponsorships for the 120 kids that are being given the three essential services in Mulenga*, Zambia every day and continuing to focus support in this loved little community.
By putting this up here, I'm giving you the freedom to ask me at anytime where these sponsorships are at and how I'm doing in regards to my commitments in this regard.
So, bring on winter. It may be biting cold and long but I have a feeling that with time earmarked for these things, I won't spend my time wishing for spring, I'll be anticipating all that will be done when it finally does arrive. And enjoying the winter in the meantime.
*$20 CDN monthly provides a child in Mulenga access to a daily, nutritious meal served at the home of a care worker; access to the local community school and education; and basic health and home care visits from care workers that decreases the vulnerability of the kids in their community. You can take part in sponsoring kids in Mulenga by sending your donation through the Hands at Work.org website or the links on the sidebar of my page, just please note that you would like the donation to go to Mulenga, Zambia if that is what you wish. End of advertisement! : )