1 Oct 2010

From Kiyinda to Knockpatrick - Part 5 - Friendships & Goodbyes

Friendships and Goodbyes

“I call you friends” (Jn 15:15)
“Parting is such sweet sorrow” - (Romeo and Juliet, Act 2 Scene II, 185)

I found this online not long after I came to Uganda but have never been able to find the blog I got it from again. Anyway as part of the tidy up I found it again amongst my own files so I said I would share it again:
"Before I came to Uganda
…I did not know earth. Earth so dry and red, baked hard by the heat of the day. Earth that holds that heat like kiln-burnt clay, warming weary feet as they journey home from a long day's work.
...I did not know the sun. Had never met this sun, whose rays could scald bare skin on a clear day, yet the tiniest cloud between it and you can bring much needed relief from it's scorching heat. Whose light is as important as air, everyone depending on it to see and work and play, to dispel the darkness and allow for life to unfold.
...I did not know rain. Rain that falls in torrents and buckets and waterfalls from the sky. Rain that means LIFE to plants, animals, and people alike. Rain that is caught in barrels and buckets, basins, bowls and open hands. Rain that is swallowed up by the parched earth so quickly that there is scarcely a puddle or spot of muck to prove it fell. Rain that throws all the vegetation into a kaleidoscope of sparkling green and raises every hand to heaven in thanksgiving praise.
....If I hadn't come to Uganda I would not know dust. Dust as fine as sifted flour, terracotta red. Dust that finds it's way into your hair, clothes, shoes...that settles into every nook and cranny, every crinkle and laughline. Dust that needs o be scrubbed off at the end of each day before you can enter your bed to sleep.
......I did not know Joy. Pure Joy, that springs from the very soul and spills out in perpetual singing, cheering, dancing and drumming. Spontaneous Joy that is released unabashedly and for all to see. Crazy Joy that is expressed without apology and can be heard for miles in any direction. The Joy of living to see another day.
....I did not know poverty. Would never have seen true poverty. Poverty that leaves children orphaned. That leaves limbs, untreated, to be lost. That makes a mother have to choose which child will eat today. Poverty that forces the severely handicapped and unfortunate souls to sit on the street everyday, with just enough energy in their aching, hungry bodies to lift a have up to catch any spare shilling. Poverty that means when people ask for food - it is because there is NO FOOD. When they ask you for money - it is because there is NO MONEY. No soup kitchen, no food bank, no money. Poverty that demands little girls with fever must walk barefoot 10 miles to the nearest clinic, only to walk the 10 miles back again WITHOUT the medicine they could not afford. Poverty that darkens the eyes of a beautiful child to a dull, grey, blank expression of hopelessness. Poverty that causes a mother to lay her baby alone on the sidewalk, in the hopes that passers-by will be more inclined to give money to a baby, than to her open hand. Poverty that breaks your heart into a million pieces every day. Before I came to Uganda, I did not understand dependence on God. To be in constant, daily communication for each and every need. To look to God for every morsel and drop of milk for your children. for every ounce of safe drinking water. For every day with a family free of Malaria, Typhoid, Fever , AIDS or other illness. For safety and security and a roof over your heads. For all the things I took for granted before I journeyed to this side of the planet.
...I had never seen the stars. Never REALLY seen the stars. Stars that twinkle and sparkle and some alive over the dark continent at night. Stars that fill the sky in numbers beyond comprehension. Stars seen as pure as the day they were formed...no pollution or man-made light to hide or dull or mask their brilliance. Stars that declare the glory of the Living God every night. As the sun fades in the west, the stars come out winking and blinking to begin the spectacular bedazzling show.
...I did not understand the importance of Education. It is the only hope for a future - a hope so strong, that whole families will work so that their brightest child can go to school. The child carries the hopes and dreams of their entire family...ALL of their futures depend on his or her success. Busy brains hard at work day after day. Dedicated, devoted, passionate about learning. Absorb, understand, conceptualize. Hoping for the future, striving to make their families proud.
.......I had never seen bugs! Had never really known BUGS! Bugs so big and ugly - they scare each other! Bugs that eat walls, eat beds, chew through clothing. Bugs that demand, by their mere presence, that you step over - not on - them as they cross the footpath. And, amazingly, Bugs that can be welcome guests at any meal - as tasty, crunchy, roasted treats! Bugs that can bite and sting causing disease or possibly death....and bugs that can fill an empty stomach and nourish a tired body.
...I did not know generosity. Generosity that welcomes with wide open arms , open hearts open minds and open homes. Generosity that flows like a river from a v\neverending source. Generosity when there seems to be nothing to give, from a bottomless well of hospitality. Generosity in it's truest form - expecting nothing in return. Generous understanding and kindness, generous acceptance, guidance, faith and love.
Before I came to Uganda I did not know traffic. Had never really been in a true traffic jam! Countless vans, cars, trucks, bicycles, pedestrians, and motorcycles converging on a single, two-lane, one way street. No order to the chaos...no lights, no signs. Pedestrians weave in and out between the maze of vehicles. Motorcycles and bicycles squeeze through any tight spot. Inch by inch, slowly by slowly...and then FULL STOP - BRAIN JAM!! Nothing moving. As far as the eye can see, a mish mash of people and vehicles, angled, criss-crossed, a scrambled mess that looks to me like a 1000 - car - pile - up!! People jump out of cars and chose to walk - it's probably faster!! Amazingly, in this mess of metal, flesh and frustrated, aggravated mentalities...NO ONE is yelling, NO ONE is cursing ,NOT ONE rude gesture or raised fist. Everyone understands "THE JAM" and so, they patiently ride it out. And, very slowly, surely and definitely LATE...You will arrive at your destination.
....I would not understand TIME. Or rather, that being on time does not matter. Everyone is always late for everything!! As a result however, there is no stress, no one is frantic, impatient or worried. There is always time to do one more thing, time to wait for one more person, one more minute, two, ten, twenty....and hour! No one is rushing, no one is concerned....Usually because the event you are going to will start late anyway and you won't miss a thing! Time here in Uganda is spent living, loving and learning. Time is too precious to spend it stressed- out , worried and rushing through your days. Time is LIFE!
Before I came to Uganda I did not know freedom. Freedom that springs from the knowledge of the eternal soul. Freedom from the fear and bitterness of death. Freedom from the trappings of material gain - the freedom to use only what you need. The freedom to shout your faith from the curb -side, to say what you want, when you want. The freedom of affection between men, between women, and towards children. The beautiful freedom of two men walking hand in hand in platonic companionship through the streets. The freedom from prejudice and from things like worrying about being "politically correct". The freedom of laughter and of tears. The freedom to be who you are, whatever you are, wherever you are.
Before I came to Uganda, I thought my eyes were open...they are open now. Open to the needs in my world. The need for health and security, medicine and aid. The need for compassion and the need for everyone to get involved. The need to put right inhumanities around us...the need for survival. The need for even the smallest of us to know and be aware of suffering, to have faith, to show joy and above all the need to LOVE. The need for all of us to open our eyes....and then....to act.
Saying goodbye is never easy. The pain of parting is hard, but grief and loss are parts of the human condition. From the moment of birth when we are wrenched forth into the world, the experience of loss is ours to bear. Simeon’s prophecy to Mary was that she would experience suffering too for having brought this child into the world, but what mother does not experience suffering from the moment of birth as her child grows further and further away from her into their own person and ultimately journeys back to the God that made them?

As a VM, you always know that someday you will leave
and have to say goodbye. Whereas the traditional missionaries would not only unpack their bags but rather throw them away when they arrived, as a VM you go for a short period to try and share what you can as well as learn from those you are living with. The level of difficulty of leaving will be as great as the effort you have made to become part of the community and sought to be really ‘present’ to them.

Leaving Kiyinda was a bitter sweet experience. It had been a place of peace and a home from home. But goodbyes may not be forever, and rather than final sundering I prefer to think of them as temporary absences. No one knows what the future holds, your intention may be to return and visit but you do not know if the vagaries of life will allow it to happen. But living in the hope that someday, sometime I will be able to come back I say from Kiyinda, goodbye for now, we will meet again.

Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - Presence
Part 3 - Suffering
Part 4 - Solidarity

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