We find ourselves spending less and less time in the villages of Africa. Our role of coaching leaders means that we can normally get more done by gathering them together in a central location, a small town which they can access from diverse locations.
To be honest, there are some parts of going out into the villages that I do not miss. The all-day travel on pot-holed roads that jolt your bones forever, the lack of facilities (toilets) or familiar food or comfortable seating or clean surroundings. Yes, in fact, there’s lots and lots of dirt and dust and heat and suspect food that may or may not result in another round of stomach bacteria.
There is something that I terribly miss if we stay too long without touching life in the villages. There is something richly human and vibrant that can be found nowhere else. People that live in the raw simplicity and purposefulness required by rural life strike a chord deep in one’s soul in a way that nothing else can.
I am not sure how to explain it.
There are the faces of people running toward you as you arrive because you have come so far to see them. Even people you have not met before. They greet you eagerly as their guests, and their lives and hearts are obviously warmed just by your presence with them.
There is their hospitality that, despite their poverty, is abundantly generous and overwhelmingly moving. Whatever they have, or whatever they can borrow from a neighbor, they will bring it to you and are not satisfied until you have eaten and drunk all. They are welcoming you into their family, and sitting with them and eating with them is part of becoming part of them. Indeed, within a short time you feel amazingly close, like family, to people you hardly know because life, love, and family just exudes out of them.
There is the vulnerability that you feel because they do not have trappings to hide behind. There are no nice cars, houses, nor clothes to cover up the nakedness of simple humanity. They are simply people living, working, laughing, crying and doing it all together with many family members in the small confines of a one-room hut and an outdoor cooking area.
There is the deep sense of community as you realize how much they truly depend on one another, including extended family and neighbors, just to survive. What you have one day your neighbor may need the next, to avoid hunger or medical or school fees or help with a dowry or funeral needs.
Finally, there are heartfelt farewells from people you have only just met as they hug and smile and walk you down the road as far as they can go.
One feels opened up to a side of humanity that is deeply moving yet rarely accessible… unless you are willing to leave the confines of one’s own world and enter that of another.