Sunday, December 4, 2011

Preparing to Leave

Saying goodbye isn’t the hard part, it’s what we leave behind that’s tough.

This is getting more and more real here.  You'd think with the years of experience of saying goodbyes (end of camp, end of school, moving from state to state), that it would get easier.  And in some ways it does.  I know in the bottom of my "knower" that the pain will ease and those faces that I see so frequently now will become a warm memory in my digital scrapbooks - a fleeting shimmer of love as I see their faces flip through rolling desktop background on the computer.

But that's also what makes it hard.  I don't WANT them to become just a nice warm fuzzy.  I care deeply for each of these faces - for our day workers that we have worked side by side with for so many months.  I know we'll meet new faces next month, but I really like the faces I see here. 

For all the darlings at Cheshire Home who have burrowed their way deep into my heart.  I want to be able to pop over and have a little impromptu dance party while they make fun of my white rhythmic challenge, and tease my inability to speak more than small-small Krio. 

Patients that you have cuddled, snuggled, cried with, and seen transform by leaps and bounds that depart for their villages hours away, without even a mobile phone number to locate them again. 

In a way I believe these goodbyes are harder because we don't have the false promise of shared technology and convenience to make us believe that this isn't a final goodbye.  Let me explain myself: 
In America, UK, Canada (all those developed nations we call home), we live with the idea that we can control situations.  "I'll earn the money, and come visit you again."  "I'll call you on my cell phone, I'll send you an instant message, I'll drop you an email, I'll Skype with you, and of course this isn't the end."  We innocently believe this, trusting that we are in control of all these situations (finances, health, life) and for the most part it pans out.

These West African goodbyes seem more indefinite.  Some here in Sierra Leone have email accounts, but I have yet to meet anyone who has internet connection at their home.  The children at Cheshire laughed when I asked if they had email or facebook.  There is no organized mail system here that would guarantee something arriving beyond the Freetown Post Office.  Mobile phone numbers change at the drop of a hat (all plans are pay as you go, voice mail on the phones is not standard). 

So, I'm trying to engrave in my heart the lessons I've learned from these precious ones:

Contentment in the midst of lack of resources.
Joy despite poverty. 
Generosity even with the little.
Persistent love and appreciation.

While the goodbyes aren't easy, it is definitely what we leave behind that is tough.

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