Finding Peace Through Service
Updated: Nov 4, 2019
The best part of my day was not when I notice her break a lifetime habit. It was not when one of my six-year-old students finally said her ABCs and numbers in her second language after a school year. Ha! The best part of my memory is not when I watched as one of my preschool students measured the distance between two poles for soccer in a second language, the very one he started learning only weeks ago. It just came to him and he never noticed what was happening. He cognitively graduated.
No, the best part was certainly not when I noticed girls making soccer balls out of anything to play with each other. Because after I challenged the status quo, they now feel invited to be much more. All it took was a soccer ball, an open space and my courage to refuse the narrative that girls belonged in the house as child bearers and home keepers. Education is the key, yes, but I came to understand it is part of the solution and definitely not the solution.
Many times, the tears don’t flow at the memory of the deceived woman who bore him a child. Sacked from the house for birthing a female. Crushing his only reason for justifiably cheating. The golden male child came from the wife. A lesson from above to be content with what you have. Another lesson from our deeds that we destroy so much for so little. She walked into the bush on the foot made path. The moonlight as her torch, her two-year-old on her back and her whole world streaming down her face. I wept silently as I laid on my cot, asking the stars to put me in deep sleep.
The moment I recall with enveloped glee is when I laid on my cot under the stars after a bucket bath at night. I watched the stars and listened to invisible air. The moon shined at its purest; the homes echoed with quiet noise of gossip and laughter. Children cried in mid sleep as they turned from side to bellies. Smoke from the firewood quenched slowly as the women discussed tomorrow's hardships and their husbands' folly. Young girls grouped at my house with songs and dance. Some trying enshroud their innocence, while others boldly proclaimed their desires in a family.
"I want two children now. More than that will be too much to feed. And the men do nothing to help you. Two is good." Aged 12
"I want to finish my schooling. If I don't pass I will be married off as a second wife. But at least I will be the Romde. The beloved wife. Aged 15
The preferred gender, the illusion that hope looks like a male, the pampered boys, sometimes sat with the men. Tea in hand, phone in another, they enjoyed another session of leisure - a birthright ingrained in them from their first cry.
In that moment, in that split second of all the cacophony, I find myself sealed between the in-between. A place so tender and soft spoken. A place only I can find. In this place, all I feel is absolute and undeniable peace. As my spirit settles into my soul, we all whisper in different languages at the same time… I am home.
There is a peace that runs deeper than valleys and soars higher than clouds. There is a peace that soothes more than the sacking of a mother's nipple and caresses better than a father’s embrace.
There is a peace that speaks to you in languages only you can decipher. A kind of peace that confronts nuisance at the door and squashes those who cloak their truth in masked friendship. This kind of peace cannot be experienced. It is an unheard breath woven into the hem of your spirit. It cannot be undone. They marry well. They marry forever. And any threat to that union is unconsciously met with war, which translates to break ups, parting ways, creating boundaries, taking boundaries, drawing thicker lines. Permission denied.
Sound familiar? Peace will do that to and for you.
The simplicity of life as a Peace Corps volunteer in Burkina Faso is the one topic my comrades and I speak of every time we reconnect. Without fail, usually towards the end of our conversation, one of us injects the famous line, “I miss Burkina.” With the other bandaging that sentiment with “I do too, so much.” Then it begins, our sentiments are engulfed with stories starting with, “do you remember that one time…” and ends in uncontrollable laughter from the shenanigans we endured. Shenanigans which now feel like family and understood by those who dared volunteer with the Peace Corps.
When the laughter returns our breath, our happy tears turn to wishes. We are silenced by the reminder of the peace we felt during our service. The peace we all, deep down, want to drop everything and return to, yet cannot. Because as much as our world needled well into theirs for years, a permanent return is a change we may not be ready for yet - if ever.
So, as you plan, rewrite, pack, rethink, unpack, say goodbye, close accounts, end relationships, buy more, add some, decide which is better, confused between what is best, remember to smile eternally, for you are about to alter your life meaningfully.
Remember to fly lighter in spirit than in bags.
Above all, remember to hold on to the peace you meet forever, as the food will not. ^_^
Cheers, to a lifetime of travel!