Monday, September 14, 2015

Worry and Anticipation

In just about three weeks, Easton and I are heading back to Zimbabwe and Zambia for the first time together since 2012. He was 10 the last time we were there, this time he'll have just turned 14. I always feel like it's such a privilege to travel with my kids, especially because I think that regardless of how much fun we can have at Harry Potter World (which indeed WAS fun...) that the things that are going to shape who he is as a man are the things we encounter when we're engaged with others and learning from them.

No offence to J.K. Rowling, but the stories we hear and remember from our first trip to Zimbabwe, are still the types of character and development that I want my boys to emulate. When we sit in the dirt and listen to a father whose name means "Happy" tell us the story of struggling to feed his children, despite the pressure to leave them with his dead wife's family and get on with his life, we learn about the tenacity of character that compels him to stay when the exit door is brightly lit and beckoning. Instead, he's growing tomatoes in his garden and selling them by the roadside, to enable his children to stay and grow up together.

No human author could deepen the character of three grandmothers, sisters from birth, who trek miles into the bush each day to carry loads of wood on their backs to sell, so that their young granddaughters can get an education and have a future. The strength of these women's resolve to provide a better life for their granddaughters while they are able, is astonishing and quite honestly, humbling to the point of shame for me. I've never been asked to dig as deep as these women for the basic necessities of life...and yet, they welcomed me as if I had something to teach them.

I'm looking forward to catching up on the chapters we've missed while we've been apart and I know that for many of these families, the struggles have stayed the same. For some, there have been losses suffered and painful processes of losing loved ones and trying to stay afloat at the same time.

For some reason, this trip, while I look forward to it, is the first time where I feel like I'm walking into someone's grief. Knowing that when I meet up with friends like Angeline, that her son Dylan is now gone, and that will be more real when we sit face to face than what we could convey through text messages and distance. I know too, that some of the children that we love and care for have been struggling to stay the course that quite simply, can sometimes be difficult to follow when your life around you is crumbling. I guess the fact that there are such heartbreaking stories that we are wading into is overshadowing the hope and the joy that we will also bear witness to. There will be new babies to welcome and new holes in families we love. I don't want to be an Eeyore about these opportunities, but I do want to convey that although we love our time in the communities we volunteer in, that there is an emotional cost that far outweighs the financial costs of going. This time, I think that although the financial costs are doubled with Easton and I both going, it is the emotional costs that are weighing on me because I know that Easton will experience those as well.  As his mom I want to protect him from some of these but I also know that he can handle much more than I anticipate.

The truth is that the travel arrangements and budgets and itineraries are complex in travelling to places such as these, but they seem simple in comparison to the mental and emotional preparation that needs to be examined in advance of these visits as well. As we build deeper relationships with the people in the communities we spend time in, we open ourselves up as well to deeper feelings on both ends of the spectrum. The balance of the joy and the sadness of the stories we step into often is a deterrent to those who "have always wanted to do that..." or "could never do that..." but it isn't for me.  Thats's not the legacy I want to pass on to my boys. I'll gladly exchange a life of "I wish I could have's" for the "I'm glad I did in spite of's" if they'll surpass me in courage and compassion.


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