Making One Thing Count

“I only accomplished one thing on Saturday, but it was a very wonderful experience. It was born out of the busyness of working and meeting people during the week. But it was brought to fruition by the stillness of reflection and recuperation.” – Kyle

My days either seem to go at a 100 km/h or 2. I’m kind of all over the place right now, so I’m working on finding balance (but loving my placement). Tuesday through Thursday are crazy…I go to football training, then run home, shower up and go out on Home Based Care rounds, come back and eat quickly before helping out in the kitchen for a couple hours for the OVC/After School Program, after that I go to boxing training for a couple hours…dinner and repeat. The only aberration is if we have a training session, as happened last Thursday when we learned about income budgeting and South African insurance. The next four days are usually much slower, but sometimes even more busy if I get invited to a wedding or cultural festival.

I guess finding balance can be equated with finding contentment. Coming here to serve, I always want to be helping or doing or caring. Sometimes though, the events I’m at just need me on the sidelines for a few hours supporting. Other times, I must recharge my battery individually. I’m not always good at allowing myself to do this. Most of the time, my recharging comes in the form of reading books, email discussions about faith and life with other friends/YAGMs, or cooking a good meal. I sometimes think to myself, ‘Why am I not doing more?…I could just be doing this in Austin’ but I’ve seen the fruits of personal time manifest themselves in many ways. Some days, I only accomplish one thing (which can be frustrating) but I’m learning to make that one thing count.

On Saturday, one of my patients had a birthday. She’s a wonderfully strong lady at 71, but she just had an 8 inch brain tumor removed at the beginning of the year. The care and devotion her daughter puts into looking after her is something that resonated with me when I met their family last Tuesday. I knew I had to bring them a cake on Saturday to celebrate that she survived the past year. The open door policy here is something I’m working to get comfortable with. In the States, most meetings are scheduled. Here, everyone encourages me to pop by whenever. Also, talking and texting are expensive on a missionary budget, so dropping by is something that just has to happend to build relationships.

Saturday morning was rainy and cold. It got nice for a window of a few hours in the afternoon. However, I was in the middle of my South African economics book and started making excuses for staying in. ‘It’s late, they’re probably having their own party…they don’t need me.’ This internal monologue was motivated from fear about using the open door policy, and worry that my meager cake offering wouldn’t be well received. Eventually I bargained with myself to just drop the cake off and jet (I already bought the thing the day before, so I might as well deliver it). God had other plans. Side note: South African weather is very finicky. One can experience all four seasons in a single day. It has already hailed twice here and it’s spring! This is exacerbated by Soweto residing on a hill at around 1750 meters above sea level.

Carrying on, I hit the weather window perfectly around 5pm. Gray clouds were rolling in as I made the 5 minute walk, and it was giving credence to my decision to deliver and dash. I got to their house, walked through gate, knocked at the door, then let myself in. The first thing I got were warm smiles and kind welcomes that thawed the chill the weather was putting on my heart. The daughter (a spry 49 with three kids to look after in addition to her mother) relayed that her mother was very happy to see me. She’d been asking about me ever since the last visit. Okay, now I had to stay and chat because these people were just too darn nice. Five minutes into our conversation, as granny was finishing up her cake slice, it started hailing. It was really coming down, made even more intimidating by the reverberation off the metal roof. I originally thought I was trapped, but really I had just been freed to take the time our relationship deserved. We wound up having a great talk that lasted well over an hour, and will make me a much better care giver to their family in the future.

I often worry about the inadequacy of my gifts, or fear rejection. Finally though, I forced myself to let go of that and just do the nice thing I’d been planning. One thing I know about myself, it’s safer for me to internalize things and pat myself on the back for wishing others well. If it wasn’t the weather, I would have made excuses for something else. I didn’t come to South Africa to be passive or to leave with regret. The thing I held onto in bringing my gift was the following truth I came to during reflection: “Nearly every regret I have in life is related to something mean I did to another person, or something nice I could have done but didn’t.” I only accomplished one thing on Saturday, but it was a very wonderful experience. It was born out of the busyness of working and meeting people during the week. But it was brought to fruition by the stillness of reflection and recuperation. Next step will be learning to release negativity such as regret and worry, but I’m happy with my progress so far. I look forward to carrying out more small acts with great love in the future (maybe Mother Teresa was on to something after all).

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