I got off my hippie soapbox for a while. Those of you who hung around during college know that soapbox I’m speaking of. It was the classic no shoes to class, nose ring wearing, flower crown rocking peace preaching Woodstock girl of so many college campuses. I was the one who liked her harmony so much that she rarely found a reason to speak up let alone start an argument, unless it involved tie-dye. I just didn’t really see a need to fight when we could all get along, talk about yoga pants, and run around Denver barefoot. Maybe it’s age and maybe it is the atmosphere or I could boil it down to the fact I know more now than I did as twenty year old college student: but I’ve noticed I fight a little more lately. Especially since I’ve been in Africa.
I am not talking about trivial fights. I don’t purposefully cause a scene. But I have been off that hippie soapbox and in Tanzania long enough to understand worthwhile change requires a little controversy. So I suppose I have been raising my voice a little more than usual. In five months I have managed file a police report for a mistreated young women with a mean mug on my face and an “I mean business attitude.” I ditched the peace for a minute so I could speak out for young voices drowned out by adult responsibility and insisted they get their four-foot frame back in the classroom. I fought speeding tickets accompanied by bribes. I stood up for unfair taxes on my mama’s shipment of Starbucks instant coffee from the states. I called the power company and told them that four-hour power outages during hundred-degree weather were ridiculous. I’ve negotiated with social workers for women’s rights, and I cried at the swimming pool that tried to overcharge us with the mzungu’s (white person’s) price.
Yes, I felt results, and Lord, there were triumphs, but after all that, do you know what I am about to do? I am about to take off my shoes, find my flower crown, and climb back on that peace train. First and foremost: because I am exhausted. But second, because I feel such a tremendous lack of love on our planet lately.
I’m not just talking about my life in East Africa, but really from all over the world. I know I can’t be the only one feeling undeniably heavy from simply tuning into reality. I log on to Facebook and see a man preaching hate and bad hair techniques as a frontrunner to lead the entire United States, a terrorist organization causing heartache in every way that they know how, a close friend’s father shot and killed by complete strangers. And that was just this past week. As I sit in African heat and fight once again to find a shred of peace in all that is filling my brain and my newsfeed, it becomes more apparent that every reaction boils down to one of two options: anger or love, anger or love, anger or love. I think about all that I have fought for and over these past five months and every good intention held behind the fight, every fuming word I’ve uttered to get my point across, every skinny girl foot stomp, finger wag, aggressive eye roll; and I am resolved to nothing more than this: I should call my family and tell them I love them.
I understand getting caught up in the hustle, I understand that now more than ever. I know anger pulsing through veins when important words aren’t heard or acknowledged. I know the heat that rises on the back of the neck when you know you are ripped off and taken for granted. I understand that most of the time our fight is for what is good and pure and noble. But one thing I never want to know is saying goodbye for good to someone without my last words being, “I love you.”
The is a short post, and debatably sour, hopefully sweet but it is for everyone I have come in contact with these past five months. It’s for my family who has stood beside me through every strange plan I have devised, the friends who send me new music and postcards and stickers and jokes. Its for the the mystery student who rights “I love you Madame Ella,” in my agenda each morning, the police officer who smiled instead of pulling me over, for the man selling phone credit on the corner that knows my name and waves each time I walk by, and Rosie who carries her little sister on her back but always, always smiles. It’s for the girls who hold my hands, fingers interlocked, when I walk in the village, the women who work in the office and laugh even when my jokes aren’t funny, and the nuns who tuck me into bed on the occasional nights I’m just too homesick. It’s for the man who lets me call him and cry because “it’s too hot and I miss bacon,” and to the mamas that include me around their dinner table when it’s a struggle to feed just the family: I love you. I love all of you! I needed to take a pause from the fight to tell you this. And if you ask me how far I am from where I want to be I will tell you this: if you know that you are loved from all the way in Africa, then I am already there.