Monday, February 28, 2011

A language louder than words

I've been meaning to write this for a while but other things came up.  I said that I wanted to write a blog about this black & white photo and now is the time.

July of 2009 was my first trip to Kenya.  After a very long trip of taking the "scenic route" we finally landed in Nairobi.  Our team took taxis to a hotel, we checked in and washed up and rested for a little while.  We had breakfast and our first taste of Kenyan coffee.  I have been hooked since!  After breakfast we visited two slums near Nairobi, Soweto and Kibera.  Soweto was first.  We visited a school there.  We walked the surrounding area and were given a tour of the school.  Then the different grades sang songs and performed dances for us.  After, all of the children gathered outside with our team to play.  I stayed behind to talk with the directors of the school for a few minutes.  

As I walked outside I was overwhelmed by the site of probably a hundred kids.  I saw everyone on my team with a large group gathered around them.  I stood for a moment, unsure of where to even begin.  All of a sudden, there is this tugging on my arm as this little boy (I later found out his name is Boniface) pulled settled near me and hugged me.  He would not let my arms go, and strangely, I felt comforted by this little boy in the slums of Soweto.  Boniface did not say anything, nor did I.  I am unsure of whether or not he spoke English, and I didn't even know how to say hello in Swahili at that point.  I picked Boniface up and held him in my arms.  We smiled and laughed while yet not saying a single word to each other.  

Eventually, it was time for us to leave.  I had to literally pry this little guy's arms off of my neck as I put him down.  As I got into the matatu waiting for us I could see Boniface beginning to cry.  My heart broke.  It broke on a level that I had not experienced before and I couldn't understand why.  As we drove away Daniel (who is the founder of Transformed International and our partner organization in Kenya [and a good friend of mine]) looked at me as I was forcing back the tears.  He just looked at me and said 4 words that I've not forgotten.  Four words that sum up so many of my Kenyan experiences:  "it's okay to cry".  Daniel gave me the permission I was seeking to allow my emotions out and to cry for a moment.

As I think back to the impact that Boniface had on me I see a beautiful language that spoke so much louder than words ever could have.  The language of love.  We didn't speak a single word to each other. But by the time I left we were both in tears.  Why?  Because there was a pure and holy love that was demonstrated.  In those few moments that we had in the slums of Soweto, we loved one another.

This short memory reminds me that we need not speak to one another to show love all the time.  It is in our actions as well.  It can often be something as simple as opening a door for another.  Or sometimes it could be just sitting in awkward silence with someone to let them know you care.

Over the last few days I have seen this again.  My stepmom's (Nancy) funeral was on Saturday.  Afterwards we had a luncheon.  I was in such admiration as I was standing near my Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Mike.  We were about to get in line to get a bite to eat for lunch.  I had decided that I was going to sit at the table with my step sisters and dad.  As Aunt Marilyn and Uncle Mike surveyed the room, Aunt Marilyn spotted a table towards the back of the room with a single couple sitting at it.  She looked at Uncle Mike and said "how about we go sit at that table with the couple sitting alone?"  I do not know what the conversation looked like at that table but I am confident that her act of love to sit with a couple alone brought a comfort.  It sure comforted me.

This morning was another amazing example of this.  I was dreading go back to the office.  I've realized this week that I don't really handle sympathy very well.  I was not looking forward to the questions of "how are you doing?"  It seems like a strange question, doesn't it?  Yet we all ask it during times of loss. As my friend Lori got to work, she put her stuff down at her desk, then walked over to the empty desk next to me, pulled out the chair, sat back and asked how I was.  It wasn't the question that showed the love.  It was the very action of sitting down.  Funny, huh?

These were not the only instances, but two specific actions I wanted to share.  There have been so many others I have experienced in the past week that I could go on for a much longer blog.  I will simply end with this thought:  Are you loving in your actions or just your words?  Because the truth is, that I too often love in only my words.  I need to make a bigger effort to love in my actions as well.  

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