Tag Archives: Humanity

I feel weird

It’s been a weird return to the United States. The first news that I received after plugging in my phone at the Minneapolis airport was that my grandfather had died early that morning. In a lot of ways, my experience since has been trying to make sense of two tragedies: The larger humanitarian crisis happening in Uganda with the refugees and the stories I had heard from them, and my own more personal tragedy with the death of my grandfather.

Both of these events really deserve to be looked at separately. There is nothing that should link them besides my timing and proximity to them. They are independent tragedies.

Yet, it’s impossible for me to separate them. In processing my grief with the one, the other always found its way in, forcing me to process both almost together. That’s why I feel I need to talk about both together, and don’t think I can simply explain how I’ve felt since my arrival back in the United States.

I know that I’m nowhere close to having processed either and will probably spend a lot of time thinking about this experience throughout the rest of the summer.

Ultimately, the best way I can put my feelings right now is that I feel weird. There’s some guilt, lots of sadness, a little bit of disillusion. Guilt, for where we’ve left countries like Uganda, for not having been there at the end of my grandfather’s life. Disillusioned with death, with the capacity of humanity to do good, and whether if there is that much good.

We often talk about reducing the suffering of humanity. Many of the places where Christian theology intersects with politics and sociology tends to focus on ways of making a so called “Kingdom of God.”

Yet, it’s difficult to think about an end to suffering when it’s so prevalent in life, or to even imagine a place in which it ends. In Uganda, suffering is prevalent anywhere that you look. In the United States, we have done a lot to reduce suffering, yet it would be hard for me to say that my mother or grandmother or the rest of my family wasn’t suffering. It’s disheartening to think that despite all we have done, there is still prevalent suffering here, and that there is virtually nothing we can do about this suffering. Death remains inevitable, and the people that are left behind after will always feel the passing.

Hakuna Matata

Today started out with a cup of coffee and a plan and ended with a lukewarm beer and a “hakuna matata.” What was supposed to be a 30-minute introduction turned into two hours. Three musical performances turned into seven performances, a skit, a ceremony during which Dr. O’Keefe was made an elder of the tribe and each of us planting trees.

 

So what if we got zero of three planned interviews done for the documentary? We had an amazing day–one of the best of my life.

 

The people of Ave Maria (a school in Lira) have got to be some of the most welcoming people in the world. A third of the children we met at the school today are HIV positive and are war orphans. It’s easy to forget that last part.

 

There was a toddler today (probably about one and half) who was absolutely beautiful. She was gnawing on a piece of sugar cane the entire time we were there. She wandered over to where I was sitting and we hung out for a good half an hour during the skit, which was entirely in their tribal language and therefore incomprehensible.

 

While we were watching the skit, she was trying as hard as she could to break her sugar cane. Her efforts were absolutely adorable, however futile. Finally, she just bit off a chunk and spit it out into her hand. She then proceeded to hold out the bite-sized piece of sugar cane and offer it to me. To say it melted my heart is a vast understatement. This sugar cane is probably the only thing the girl had to eat today, and she wanted to share it with me.

How can a people who have so little give away what little they do have? I think it’s because they just understand what it means to be human, even from the beginning.

Even sitting in church on Sunday, the acceptance of human nature was readily apparent. Women were breastfeeding and the reader reached under his robe to adjust his junk in the middle of reading a Psalm. Why are these things not okay in America? Comfort and nourishment are basic human needs, but we’re ashamed to address them unless we’re out of the public eye.

If we could just accept that we’re all humans, maybe we could stand in a kind of solidarity and we could offer the same unwarranted kindness. Actually, why does kindness have to be warranted at all? Nobody needs to earn kindness, and I think that’s something I learned from the Ave Maria people.

There’s America time, where you’re busy doing something that seems urgent and simultaneously thinking of the next thing you’ll be doing that’s equally as urgent. America time leaves no time to appreciate the people you’re with or to accept them as human beings.

There’s Africa time, where you take time to appreciate the beauty, the silence and the company you have and where the moments stretch into days.

Today, we made the welcome, full transition from America time to Africa time. Hakuna matata.