Friday, August 20, 2010

Grateful to be here, now

It was a hot day. So hot that I felt badly for the potential tenants who were sitting in a car in front of my house, waiting for the property manager I'd recently hired to arrive and give them a tour. I would have given the two men and a woman a tour myself, except I was really busy--my sister was moving out of the basement right then and her movers were coming in and out of the house, and I had a handyman in the kitchen installing an updated oven/range.

But it was too hot to leave them outside, so I walked out to the car and invited them to wait inside. The man in the passenger seat eagerly accepted my offer and threw the car door open, causing me to notice he was missing a leg from the thigh down. As he stepped out of the car and settled in his crutches, he spoke to the others in another language, and only then did those two climb out of the car.

I brought them inside, sat them on my couch, and scrambled to find cups to offer them a drink (most of the cups had already been packed by then). Once I had them settled sipping ice water out of my cup with a plastic SpongeBob Squarepants on top (which is not the one I usually present to guests, but which I must admit is among my favorite possessions), I jumped back into the circus of chaos that was my house just then.

Later I learned they were refugees from Somalia. The man with the missing leg was the only one who spoke English, and was helping his friends find a place to live. He'd lost his leg in the Somalian civil war.

"We love our country, but we've decided that we will NEVER go back." he said in a determined tone. "We want to live in a place of peace."

Talking with him was a nice reality check, helping me remember that even at my most stressful times, at least I don't have people shooting at me, or land mines to avoid, or civil unrest to face. I am very blessed to live in this time and place.

Along those same lines, recently I've been worrying about a trip I'll be taking to Brazil in November. I hadn't planned to go alone, but that's the way things have worked out. I don't mind, and sometimes prefer, traveling alone when I'm in a place where I speak the language. Heck, once I even rode the bullet train across Japan by myself without speaking Japanese. But there's something about the thought of me being a blond woman alone in Rio de Janeiro without speaking Portuguese that makes me REALLY NERVOUS. So, I've been stressed out trying to find the time to study Portuguese, and to make travel arrangements so I will have help in Brazil. At times I've wondered if the trip to Brazil will be worth the stress it has brought me.

But then, I stumbled across The Afghan Women's Writing Project website, where I read powerful stories about the daily lives of women in Afghanistan. These women aren't even free to travel around their neighborhoods alone, let alone travel around the world like I have the privilege to do. In some cases, they aren't even free to go to school.

Again, it made my stress and concerns seem small and made me realize how incredibly blessed I am to live in this time and place, where I'm surrounded with freedom, opportunity, security, and peace. I'm sure I'll figure out the Brazil trip, and in the meantime, will feel very grateful to be here, now.

P.S. Sometime, somewhere, I'd like to do something to make a difference in this world--to help more people be blessed with with the opportunities that I often take for granted. I'm not quite sure how a person goes about doing that, though. What are your thoughts?


HW said...

I love reading your adventures. And I think you DO make a great deal of difference in this world (don't forget to count your Primary class!) I like the Perpetual Education Fund as a way to help a larger population, but you don't see a specific person who benefits. You have to imagine.

Also, we should travel together sometime. You go really cool places. I'm here wishing I spoke Portuguese and had time free in November!

Good luck in the direction of your dreams. I love you.

The Conlins said...

Are you going to Rio? Perhaps my cousin, Marcia, would make the trip to Brazil with you. If you are interested, I'll provide you with info.

cindyc said...

Heather, I love you too, and would love to travel together sometime! I've also talked about taking a trip with Paige and Kirsta--maybe we'll have to plan one together! Or take a road trip for our next family reunion!!
Kathy, yes, I'd love to talk to your cousin Marcia--does she speak Portuguese? I'll be in Brazil for about 10 days, and will visit Salvador, Manuas, and Rio during that time.

Paigeo said...

Making a difference. Possibly you're looking for the kind of experience where a new and bold thought strikes you, and then you spend many years becoming an inspiring and driving force to motivate many people. Cooperating together, all of you change the world. Am I right? Mother Theresa had that kind of experience after being a school teacher. God gives the idea, and also provides the way. I have no doubt you'll get your opportunity.