One thing that David shared that stood out to me was how the people of Maramara recovered from a fire which recently destroyed virtually all of their homes. When asked how they were feeling since the fire, they simply stated that "It happened." For the people Maramara, health is a luxury, and one that has only recently been made available with the arrival of clean drinking water. Conveniences are non-existent. There is zero sense of entitlement. When their village burns, it just burns. It happened, and that is all. Nobody expects otherwise.
Americans do not suffer like that. We talk about how we feel about what happened. We want to know why it happened. And we especially want to know how bad things could happen to good people. We feel that we don't deserve to suffer. We feel entitled to our safe and convenient lives. We don't suffer well do we, us Americans? I know I don't.
Don't get me wrong, I am thankful to live in a community where a woman dying in childbirth is extremely rare and appalling, I am glad that when someone's home burns down, it is recognized as a tragedy. I appreciate that the way my brother's life was taken from him is still shocking. I don't want to live in a world where that stuff just happens and that's that. Still, I think we could learn from the people of Maramara when we are focusing on our grief, our loss, our idea of stress or inconvenience. We are spoiled, and we are rich, and we don't even realize it. Even our suffering is defined by our expectation that we be spared from such pain. We get so angry and shake our fists at God and demand an explanation, as if the Creator of the Universe owes us anything.
Anyways, I was struck that the people of Maramara expect to suffer, but they probably didn't expect to have clean water. They can rejoice so freely because they see the gifts as gifts, and the suffering, not as a curse, but as part of life, just something that happens. I want to be more like that, where I am so pleasantly surprised that anything good could happen to such pitiful people as us that I see it as a gift, a mercy. I want to feel my grief, and I want to continue to be shocked and saddened when horrible things happen, but shocked because I haven't been desensitized, not because I felt entitled to a comfortable life.
I always dream of doing something big like that, going to Africa and making some big impact. But, the truth is, they don't need me there. They need clean water, and education, and they need their own people to be equipped to lead their people, they don't need me. This is when I wish I was a dental hygienist, or a doctor, so I had some skill that would be useful to a village in Chad. But, alas, I do not. So, until they need tutorials on how to make a fool of yourself in a blog post, I am staying stateside.
Which brings me to Day 29. I went, under the cover of night, to rake leaves for our friends who have a really busy schedule (both work full-time, three kids, etc.) They were talking about how their yard has been overrun with piles of leaves, and I have it on good authority to say that they were not exaggerating.
To save time, I will summarize Day 29's #AdamsActs and what I learned in the process:
- I learned that these friends live on a corner lot.
- I learned that corner lots are bigger, and that means more leaves, and that means more
workkindness, so, woohoo! I hateheart corner lots.
- I learned that if you are 5' 9", you are too tall to hide behind a limp, quarter-filled leaf bag, and the homeowner will see you crouching like a criminal if they pull into their own driveway.
- I learned that I am exponentially more afraid of pedestrians after 10 pm, than I am before 10 pm.
- I learned that I am slightly more afraid of pedestrians that are smoking than those that are not. (I really, truly did not know I felt this way, and I don't know why that is. Perhaps, deep down, I believe that someone who is willing to completely disregard the collective world-wide opinion that something is horrible for you, is also - just slightly - more capable of ignoring the notion that skewering me with my ancient rake handle is a bad idea. I don't know, maybe it's something else, but this was a new discovery.)
- I learned that damp, dead leaves smell like the breath of a drunken man.
- I learned that they also sometimes smell like poop.
- I learned that when leaves do smell like poop, it's because you are actually smelling poop.
- I learned to always wear gloves when scooping leaves into a bag by hand.
- I learned to always keep baby wipes and hand sanitizer in my car.
- I learned that if it's really dark, you can still see how many leaves there are left, but you can't see your rake.
- I learned that once you lose your rake, you have to go home. Ashamed.
- I learned that even if you aren't a doctor doing important medical missions in Africa, you don't need a PHD in poop-raking to make an impact in your own city.
So there it is, Day 29. It happens. Suffering just happens. Literal and figurative crap happens. Right in the middle of a good thing, there is this heap-o-fecal matter just waiting to get scooped up into your bare hands. That is life. It stinks, but I think I am learning to expect it in this life, knowing that on this side of heaven... we can either focus on the whole corner lot of gifts we have been given, or we can let the one pile of poo rob us of all our joy. I think it's a worthwhile pursuit to just dig in and hope for the best.