On a wet, cold, dreary day still jet-lagged I wrestle with gratitude and the remorse of leaving Uganda. Grateful to be going home and yet sad to be leaving Uganda, I struggle with not knowing where I stand, how I feel, and where I want to be. I offer my thoughts as I sort through this puzzle.
Before I left for Africa, someone told me that they admired me for going. No doubt hard for anyone who knows me to believe, I had a flippant response. There and back, I regret my quick retort for I too, now, feel a swell of admiration for us who returned to the Pearl of Africa and know where it stems—our willingness to love life in all its permutations, to stare it in the face, allow it to wash over us, to bask in our brokenness and put down the arrogance of we-got-this if but for a moment.
I can’t say, as many on this last trip declare, I love Uganda. I love what Uganda demands of me. I love how my heart stretches in so many directions and joy so prevalent in the people and so absent in my own country. I hasten to add I am also incapable of declaring my fealty to the good ol’ U.S. of A. I love the ease of the west and the choices. But neither country is without it’s good or evil. What I appreciate is the contrast my travels have highlighted.
To borrow from A Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”
No one chooses to put them self in the kind of contradiction Dickens describes unless they sense the higher payoff. What would sadness be without joy, winter without spring, and good without evil? Real life lies in the eye of the paradox. To stand with a foot in both worlds, to see the misery and human degradation, the poverty of spirit in one world and of necessities in the other, to feel your heart break time and again at what you see, or don’t see is not ready for prime time. I’m not sure it ever will be. The anesthesia of habit, status quo, and the fear of change are too compelling. I count myself and my fellow sojourners on this trip blessed beyond measure.