I have come to the realization that life, in a general sense, is most enjoyed when it is experienced in a free flowing, moving, ever changing process in which nothing is fixed. Now that statement can have different meanings for different people but my feeling is that I find I am at my best and feeling most alive when I can allow the flowing experiences of life to carry me in a direction that appears to be forward and most often towards goals of which I am but dimly aware. Living with such a viewpoint immediately opens a vast and complex number of experiences ultimately shaping who and what I become. It also means that I try my best to live with an open system of beliefs, an ever-changing set of principles that I hold. But after all isn’t that what living and abroad is really all about?
One principle that I have started living by here that reflects this is the idea that when an activity feels as though it is valuable or worth doing, it is worth doing. This has led me to spending more and more time at the Kwethu orphanage in Gourton (small area just about 20k down the road from where I live) and through my time there I have been reminded of some of the most important lessons in life.
There is a popular verse found in the book of Proverbs 27:17, which reads “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” This verse has come up a few times in the first couple months here between other fellow YAGM and our fearless leader Rev. Konkol. Now I have to admit that the first couple times this verse from Proverbs was brought to my attention I looked at it from a real surface level approach without having ever truly thought about it in a deeper sense. Or truly experienced this. To “sharpen another” is to develop and mold one’s character and that is exactly what I have experienced in many ways from spending time at Kwethu. Though, my experience would lead me to re-write the verse (I hope that’s not a sin) to read: “As iron sharpens iron, so one child can sharpen the world.”
I have learned more in 2 months about sharing, hope, survival, love, and kindness through watching a 6-year-old boy by the name of Kwanele than in the other 22yrs I’ve been around. While sharing, hope, survival, love, and kindness are clearly not new ideals for me, I have never seen them acted out in daily life as fully as Kwanele embraces them. Kwanele has lived a tough life for someone who is only 6 yrs old. He was abandoned by his father, is HIV positive, only has 1/3 of a lung left due to TB when he was young, and has some other health issues that have an impact on his daily routine.
Despite the hardships that he has had to experience, Kwanele could quite possibly be the happiest (and cutest) kid I have ever seen. My heart melts a little bit each week that I am at the orphanage and Kwanele provides me with a model of how to live in a God loving manner.
Just last week I made a trek up to a store just a few meters from the orphanage to purchase a ma guina (deep fried dough…its quite delicious really). The first kid I saw upon my return was Kwanele, so I gave him a piece of the cake. While I was breaking off another piece for one of the other boys, Kwanele beat me to the punch by breaking his piece in half and giving it to a boy next to him. While this might seem like a small gesture, think about it a little deeper with me. Here is a boy who only eats a few meals a day and rarely gets a treat like a fat cake and yet before even taking a bite of the piece I gave him, he is ready to make his portion smaller so that another boy can savor the moment with him. In the book of Hebrews 13:22 we are reminded to “…not forget to do good and share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” But the teaching that really brings Kwanele’s act of sharing to light for me is similar to the story of the widow’s offering found in Luke 21:1-4. The poor widow gave what she had not out of her wealth but rather she gave all she had. In a similar fashion, Kwanele was willing to share really all and everything he had with the boy in a similar state next to him. Kwanele has no worldly possessions to share; all he has is the bit of cake I gave him and without even thinking twice he broke it in half to help out a friend. 2nd Corinthians 8:12 tells us that “for if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have.” What matters here and in life is the willingness to share or the motive of true generosity no matter how small the amount that can be afforded is.
While there are countless other lessons and stories I could pull from the time I have spent playing and hanging out with Kwanele, I think his simple act of sharing is one that has moved me the most. I feel that many of the problems in the world today could be solved by a bit of sharing and looking out for the person next to you. The person next to you may be in a similar situation as you are, or in much greater need for something than you are. Either way, each and every person is a brother and sister in Christ so we must break off a bit of our own bread and share it with them.
Until next time...Cheers