I turned forty eight years old yesterday.
Here is my insight from the passing of time…..
“..so close to the end of it that we never buy green bananas..”(Brennan Manning)
Unfortunately, I have not captured much existential insight to share today. What I do know that I am well past the age where I want to play games about most things. I find I have a great urge to say “Bull-Crap” often. I have never actually said it out loud yet, at least not in those exact terms ;-). I really want to be a better bridge builder, and this desire is not very helpful.
“… and even though you sense he has strong convictions, he has a gentle way about him that lets you keep yours.”(Paul Young. The Shack)
As I head back to Mali, I am thankful for several things.
I work of an agency that does not allow much bull crap to fall in front of me. Our new President is doing great. She is now vetting anything that makes foolish demands on my time (Trust me, some supporters can make crazy demands) Now, I am only brought in on critical things that really require my skill or knowledge, thus preserving my precious time for the African side, which is my real job. I am also thankful Man Of Peace does not micro-manage everything I do. I’m not lazy, nor under productive, so I guess that works for them, and me.
“In a world of talkers, Mack is a thinker and doer. He doesn’t say much unless you ask him directly, which most folks have learned not to do. When he does speak you wonder if he isn’t some sort of alien who sees the landscape of human ideas and experiences differently than everybody else.
The thing is, he usually makes uncomfortable sense in a world where most folks would rather just hear what they are used to hearing, which is often not much of anything. Those who know him generally like him well enough, providing he keeps his thoughts mostly to himself. And when he does talk, it isn’t that they stop liking him—rather, they are not quite so satisfied with themselves.” (William P. Young. The Shack)
I am thankful for my Malian community. I’ve been humbled this week. Since we head back to Mali in a few days, we have been talking to people to get things lined up for our arrival., and each exchange has been humbling.
“You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” (Anne Lammott)
I have to speak warmly about each person we had exchanges with. It was a great Birthday present. What was it? Community, relationships, connection, and friendship, all of which are the chief strength of West African culture. On my birthday we spent the morning on Skype, the phone, and Facebook messenger communicating with various Malians and a few expats. I am so thankful for the the many people we are sewn in with relationally now. People who look out for us, who actually anticipate our arrival, who are so willing to step in and help make our transition back to West Africa a joy amidst the chaos of international travel and African Airports. It was not this way at the beginning. The first few years we were strangers, we knew no one. We had a few crises that would have done us in except for a few Malians we barely knew stepping in when needed most. It’s feels good to have family, some to call, now. Thank you.
“Thank you, Lord, for another crack at togetherness.” (Homer Simpson, The Simpsons)
Mali, here we come again. It’s been too long. I’m still here in Canada, but not my heart, mind, or spirit. They have gone ahead of my flabby flesh. But this shell in Canada is trying to deal with the emotions that arrive with these frequent transitions between two very polar opposite extremes of existence. After twenty years of transitions, I can tell you the cliches do not make it any easier.
“I worry about people who know why bad things happen or think they can treat hurt with words and pain with clichés.” (Leonard Sweet. The Well Played Life)
I’ve learned that I can’t do Africa alone. Africa has always been lived with my sweet and courageous wife. I could not do Africa without her. We are a team in many ways. We are both very independent, trying not to make many requests of others. We purposefully mingle much more with locals than with expats (Not that there are many in Sikasso region) , because it is so easy to let living in a Canadian or American saturated bubble take over too much of our lives in Africa.
However, I can tell you the few expats we have come to know in Mali, have been a great encouragement. We needed them more than we knew. At times my arrogance causes me to think I can do it myself. But Africa continues to remind me, time, and time again, that it will kick my ass any time it wants to, and she already has, in times of sickness, political coups, evacuations, and loss of life. I humbly confess, that I need this new community to make it.
Maybe my insight at age forty eight is this……. Humility is not always claimed, or just taken, sometimes it is kicked into you.
My ass hurts, because Africa has kicked my arrogant ass many times. I suspect I have a few more whuppings coming my way shortly. But, man, I love this place and these people, even when it hurts.
How do you describe village life, sounds, smells, and ambiance in words? I don’t want to miss Africa.
My heart is ready for more West Africa. Good Job the heart helps even old men like me.
“Does a man’s heart always help him?”the boy asked the alchemist. “Mostly just the hearts of those who are trying to realize their Personal Legends. But they do help children, drunkards, and the elderly, too.”
(The Alchemist. Paulo Coelho)
Catch you on the flip side from Mali.