I have watched several You Tube videos of Lilongnwe and surrounding areas – just to get a sense of where we’re headed. With every single viewing, I am struck by how similar it appears to N.E. Brazil (a largely impoverished area I have visited three times before).
I mean it’s eerily familiar. The architecture and infrastructure, the way traffic seems to flow, the terrain, the color of the sky, the pace of the people – blends of motorized traffic, bicycles, and bare-foot pedestrians.
It looks exactly like Mossoro, Brazil, and that gets me thinking about the people I know there. The experiences I had. The encounters with real poverty, real need and real joy. I’m hopeful that similar moments await us in Africa.
As I watch these videos and think these thoughts I watch the family across the street preparing for a “garage sale” (as you can see from the above photo, this is one of the rare, LITERAL “sales that occur inside a garage” events).
It’s almost like, as their daughters have grown up, they left behind a pink, lavender and taffeta wake. Plastic doo-dads, battery powered relics, a pretty, girlish skin shed like a princess-snake on her way to growing up, and this wake, this skin, spills out of the garage and down the driveway.
Items are priced. Card table set up. Customers begin to arrive as the astounding excess of one family’s life goes on sale, now that it is no longer of use to them.
I’m told that the “garage sale” is unique to America. I don’t know for sure. I know they have exploded in popularity since I was a child. They were by no means unheard of, but also by no means were they a way of life for seller and buyer as they seem to be now.
It is a symptom of excess. Of unchecked addiction to growth. Like diabetes is a symptom of obesity. Like cirrhosis of the liver a symptom of alcohol poisoning..
Today’s display across the street is a reminder of why we’re going to Africa.
You see, I have two daughters (and a house and cars and appliances and other stuff). And while neither of my girls exhibited appetites for things quite as “pink” – we did provide lots of stuff for them.
We have had our garage sales too. I do not sit in judgment on my neighbors I sit with them in the midst of ridiculous, RE-DICK-YOU-LESS excess.
We must learn to live with less. We must learn to live more justly. We must learn to live more slowly.
You see, we will not be “saving” Africa on this particular trip. Yes – it is likely that some individuals will receive life saving treatment. Discouraged and hopeless people might receive a dose of hope which will sustain them…but the truth is all of these people will die someday.
So will I. Everybody is gonna die.
The question is, “How then shall we live?”
We must return to our own context as changed people…willing to live differently.
10 years ago, 23 of us went to Brazil; to the same kind of place. And the truth is, of those 23, I see little evidence that we succeeded in bringing these lessons back in any lasting way.
I pray that this trip will be different.
That we will be different.