Monday, May 24, 2010
the poorest place in the world
I just kept trying to look forward, following Lori's lead to jump a puddle when necessary. I tried not to notice the dog who had taken a machete to the back and I REALLY tried not to notice the woman who had taken one to the face. I being the usually chatty type did not open my mouth, but it wasn't because I didn't want to talk. There were bugs. If I did, I said short answers and held my teeth together. Once we got to the center of kroo bay I listened intently as the people welcomed us. I couldn't understand or hear what they were saying. As I was trying to keep up this mind game of not talking or looking I watched the area about the size of two soccer fields. It was all dirt, with some mud puddles from the rain. I saw a pig leave its mark. Jessie said in my ear that all these kids just pile into people's homes at night because most of them are orphaned. What? I forgot my mind game for a split second. I saw some of the kids faces full of anticipation. And before long the games began. The boys on our team had given away every soccer ball and every team began playing around with their new prize. I began to count how many naked children there were, how many with only undies on. I lost count. Then I forgot to only look forward because suddenly I had to step back. They were kicking the ball our way and running through the muddy pig refuse. It splashed right before me almost onto one of my teammates. They were barefoot! All the sudden one of the women grabbed my hand. I struggled mentally to smile and shake her hand and when I tried to pull away she held it tight smiling and trying to talk to me. Oh no. So I squeezed her, smiled and tried again still to no avail. She isn't going to let go. Still smiling. Still trying to talk to me and I still can't understand. So I diverted the attention to the baby she was holding and then I forgot again. I did the pigs to market game with her fingers and tried to tickle the baby who did not think it was funny. Probably because children are smart. Then I noticed the large empty yellow jug she kept scooting around to keep close to her. Probably her water jug. Then it was time to follow the team back to the cars and go. I am ready. Just as I thought I had escaped she was there again, to walk me out. She held my hand all the way up the hill. She mysteriously found that third hand I always wish I had when I am holding Ivey. She held her baby and jug and my hand. And while I got in the car and drove back to the hotel I had to think about who won. She was the picture of hospitality, trying to engage me in conversation and make me feel comfortable, walking me out as a face for her people thanking me for the visit. And when I lie down tonight in this air conditioned room on this mattress and pillow-with a blanket, she will collect water for herself and her baby that is full of parasites and she will probably go back to a tin shingled hut and lay on the ground. Who knows if she will eat tonight or even tomorrow for that matter. And I would like a rematch. Because in the war of the spirit I know already that I fell short. I already know I disappointed on a grand scale. Since I can’t go back I have to go forward and hope that I am able to do it again. I will not look only forward, I will look around. I will not stay silent and clench my teeth about this atrocity. I will not choose to draw back but to embrace these lost souls who suffer much. And I am so thankful that I got to learn that lesson by the grace of that sweet girl. And I’ll pray that if she noticed my discomfort that she is comforted in knowing she was the bigger person.