Friday, May 24, 2013

Dirty Letters

Written last week, before leaving for Canada to attend our son's wedding, SAM Ministries' annual banquet, etc.:

After a considerable degree of effort, the teachers at the school and I managed to get the kids to fill in letters to their sponsors. These letters aren't complicated or lengthy. Mostly, they're a drawn or colored picture. Maybe a circled or written word or words, depending on what grade they're in. Depending on their level of ability.

It can be very hard to connect this world with other worlds. This world is rather basic. We have bugs and dirt and low-end technology (when it works). Other worlds are super-hygienic, bug-free (a luxury where, as my daughter put it, is to ask oneself "how did that bug get inside??") and have high speed internet. I'd like to say that the term "high speed" in Moz is used in some capacity, but that's not characteristic of most of life here. That's not good or bad. It's just different. Where we live, it is buggy, dirty, and has slow-end technology. It's a part of the world that tugs at your heart. It's a tough place to live, but I love it.

Anyway, back to the letters. Lots of them were soiled by the hands of children who don't have running water in their school yet. I had thought to pack plastic basins, water, soap and towels, but forgot since my time was taken up with packing food to keep tummies filled, sight words for the next week, medicine for the school clinic, etc. Sending dirt-smudged letters is never our intention, but it seems an inevitable and normal part of life in Africa. The dirt is as hard to avoid as the oxygen we breathe.

Tomorrow is my last day here before I head for a different world with the luxury of running water, fast internet, and being shocked to see a bug or dirt anywhere but outdoors where they belong. But part of me is sad to leave the "real" world behind. There is so much humanity and value in a hand written note, though it's smudged with dirt and erased misspellings. Those are the elements that shout, "Real people with real needs live here!"

I would like to keep these letters before me as a constant reminder that the fast, developed world is good, but there is another world that calls my name. It's the world that is still struggling to develop; the one that suffers hunger, poverty, and death from treatable illnesses--things I don't want to experience, but others must. Lives I can impact as long as I don't shrink back.

This is why these dirty letters mean what they do to me. Each one represents a sweet face, a unique personality with its own quirks, mischief, and vulnerability. A loving heart, and a life full of potential, still "under development", that hopes for change. Most importantly, a life that can be changed.

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