Returning Home (A Confession)
All at once, there exists within us a desire to go forward and a wanting for the things of the past. We believe sometimes that we should be both on the move and settled in to where we are comfortable. Are there those that only want to be away? Yes. Are there are those that only long for what they consider the good ole days? Yes. Most of us, however, are torn between needing more, and being content. Between going forward, and staying put. These all have to do with how we feel about our current situation. None are right or wrong, and none are better than the others.
In my early twenties, the opportunity to play on a team that had four exhibition games of basketball scheduled against the Zambian National Team presented itself. I spent the year prior to the trip raising money, training with the team, and wondering what Africa might be like. We were also to run mini training camps for younger children, teach classes on religion, and mentor college students. I had experience working with children, I was involved enough in religion to pass the requirements of what that religion believed I would teach, and I myself was in college. Secretly, and without any guilt, I was only going to learn.
We stepped off the plane in Lusaka and there were news cameras, interviews, and questions about how Magic Johnson was doing with his recent diagnosis of HIV. From the beginning of our time there, it was obvious, that those that had expected our arrival, had an inflated opinion of who we were and what life we came from to get there. We met people. We spent time with children and college students. We played basketball. I did speak about religion, but only in ways that offered others more questions to ask than concrete answers (which continues to be my practice). All the while traveling across the country, experiencing new things, and believing Africa to be the most beautiful place on earth.
Among the many things I enjoyed were the people, the flowers, the rivers and streams, the music, and the sunsets. The nights were cool, the days were not unbearably hot, and my day was spent soaking in both the sun and the experience. Though I did not plan on returning to live, the thought crossed my mind. Not to help any particular group of people, but to enjoy what this new place had to offer. After a brief stay in London, which was scheduled but not well planned for, I returned home. Full of what I thought were pangs and longings for a country half a world away. My days as a college student were coming to an end, I was recently engaged to be married, and I did not have any job lined up to generate income.
On a hot and humid day that found the air so thick it could be swallowed and not breathed in, I went running through the neighborhood where I was raised. It was on this run, on this day, and in familiar places, that I came to a realization that has shaped my life. It was same road where I road my bicycle as a child, the same path I traveled to elementary school in my early years, the same road my friend and I walked and discussed all the worries of the world and our teenage place in life, and the road that, for all those years, took me home. Though I do not claim to be enlightened, it seemed like, at least a glimpse of enlightenment.
There were flowers blooming on vines that were similar to the ones I was enthralled by in Africa. There was a beauty in the lush green trees and bushes that had hitherto gone unnoticed. My reflections on the children and adults that I was impressed by in Lusaka and her surrounding cities, were similar to the people I had seen upon returning to my life in another country. Was it the same sun that set over this familiar ridge that had set over an African plain? Was it the same feeling expressed on the face of an aging woman working to provide for her family in Zambia, that I had observed all my life on the face of my grandmother when she offered me angel food cake and lemon ice cream? Had I received any revelation or had any questions answered across oceans that were not available to me a mile away from my home?
What happened on that trip was not the experience of something more beautiful than what I had known before. What I learned on that trip had little to do with culture, viewpoints, or even Africa. On that month-long journey to a previously unknown country, I became open to learning about the Universe, how the Divine is always at work, and was afforded the chance to extend grace, kindness, and love, as my only vocation. That trip to Zambia opened up in me the ability to, and the permission for, seeing my life and the lives of others, in a drastically different way.
Since that day, my vocations have included, but are not limited to, salesperson, dock worker, preschool teacher, manager, youth minister, writer, designer, business owner, product specialist, and baby sitter. None of these hold more value in my mind than another, though some did provide better pay. Since that day, I have been in places of honor, places of despair, and places of peace. I have traveled to other destinations, I have remained home. I have lived with family and have lived apart from people. I have been divorced twice and married three times (twice to the same person). There are drawings, demo tapes of original songs, uncompleted book projects, half read books, and those that are better for knowing me along with those that may not be better for having met me. There is a blog website, a book, one abandoned website and a card company website that is just starting. Admittedly, I am addicted to caffeine and nicotine, and probably to things of which I am unaware.
I am not perfect, but I am perfectly me. My purpose remains the same, though sometimes the way I carry out that purpose changes. I am at times a hot mess and at times a light.. We are all, at times, a hot mess, and at times, the very light of the Creator. And unless you feel compelled to share what could be considered failures in a blog post, do not dwell on these short comings too much. Give yourself some forgiveness. Realize you are not alone. Love another, a sunset, or a pet, with all your heart. When the time comes for finding the Divine, know it is in the breath you breathe and take for granted, the beginning of each smile, and the moment you wake each morning. And when it comes time to find peace, begin by knowing that we are all on a journey, and regardless of your ability to travel that journey, you are moving through this life in the way you know best. And that is enough for now. Your purpose is only to be. You are doing that now. Congratulations and keep up the good work.