Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Why Africa?" A Response to the Question....

"But why are you going to Africa? What is your purpose in going to Africa? What are your goals? What is your aim?"

These are the beautiful and challenging questions I keep encountering from so many of you -- friends, family members and new acquaintances alike. What follows is my attempt at articulating a response. The first half was originally drafted to my friend Marie Teehan in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. I share this in order to be as transparent in my motivations for this journey as possible... Yes. What an exercise it is!.... I wonder if any of us really knows deeply why we pursue anything...? I pose the gift of this question directly back to you:



Your prayers are really most appreciated, Marie. I'm just trying to honor this inkling I have to travel, serve, witness, build relationships, learn, love.

My aim in going to Africa? Honestly: to honor God. When I left teaching and stepped back from literacy work, a year and a half ago, I just really got intentional about getting clear and healthy: spiritually, financially, professionally, artistically, romantically! Yes. ("How can I love well? How can I create well? How might I serve well? What is sustainable"? -- my driving questions.)

A mantra I adopted and have worked to apply in every aspect of my life, is from Ghandi's playbook: BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD.

So. I'm trying not to ask for things from other people, (leaders, lovers, family members) that I myself wouldn't be willing to do. In this case: BE A GLOBAL CITIZEN. BE INFORMED. BE AWARE OF PRIVILEGE. BE COGNIZANT OF RESPONSIBILITY. BE IN MUTUALLY TRANSFORMING RELATIONSHIPS.


So. Back to Africa! Back to places I've been invited, back to physically setting out on a journey of love and learning. And the timing is no joke. I will depart after this election. After we elect a new leader. And there will be CHANGE - no matter what. I hope and pray it's Obama at the helm, but I cannot be certain. I can only put myself into this universe of change, and be a kind of "Ambassador of Change" by going to see. Witness. Be in relationship. Learn. Be an agent of Peace.


At the center of this entire thing is LOVE. I don't know a more potent and honorable motivation or reason for doing anything --than this: L-O-V-E. Yes! Five years ago, I fell in love with a woman twice my age and half my size with a distinctly different skin color and whole set of different life experiences. Maureen, "Auntie Mo" Dabula inspired the most amazing kind of love in my heart -- and then a journey of transformation, as she invited me to come to her home country of South Africa. From there, I found myself in love with Dumisani Ntombela, Dr. Ernest Darkoh, this character named Vuyisile Nkomo. And the list grew... all through an amazing network of relationships and opportunities centering around a church friend, originally from Kenya, Antoinette Bennaars -- and my friend Barbara Cox at the Perpich Center for Arts Education...Through these friends I met a woman named Emily Morris, and Dorothy Amenuke then Ishaka Mawanda and his friends Paul Baingana and Peter Ngobi and Cecile Aguilar. All of these folks have spoken to my heart. All have presented stories and opportunities to live and grow and learn. And all are ones who I seem to have something to offer in return. And there's nothing more powerful than having something simple and beautiful to offer in exchange, right? It's that mutual relationship business, that is at the heart of seeing a world transformed, healed, and inching forward toward greater peace and justice and wellness....

My goals as an agent-of-change are especially to study the transformational process of healing and forgiveness, as it's facilitated through story-telling. I'm interested in the Truth and Reconciliation process of South Africa as it plays out today in our current global political landscape, but especially so in our current local communities -- right down to our classrooms, living rooms, dining rooms, bedrooms. I want to hold the power of sharing narratives-- being a listener as well as storyteller-- in my immediate community, and in those I will travel to abroad.

I'll take pictures. I'll blog. I'll reflect and pray. Will it do one tangible positive thing for my pocket book? Will anyone become richer, financially? Will I be able to see the library shelves of another school contain more books? Will anyone have greater access to some simple health care? Will anyone have an opportunity to step closer to their dreams? I cannot promise this. I can however, note that I'll be changed, as I'm changed in the process of simply putting myself into the current and letting myself go....I can attest already to the social, emotional, spiritual currencies that presently provide me with resources to move and work and be a better human.

Can that be enough of a "Why?" I hope so.

Your prayers, blessings, well-wishes are most appreciated.


1 comment:

Jody said...

Well put Meliss. Wherever you are, wherever you go you are always learning so much, in turn you teach so much just by being the divine human being that you are.

God has it all and the outcome of this trip will be far beyond your hopes, dreams, imaginations.

Peace and prayers