Doin’ the Dishes

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Rachel writes about doin’ the dishes:

One of the many blessings of being placed in host family is the daily occurrence of a shared evening meal.  My host sister does most of the cooking each night and although she does her best to teach me her ways, I mostly stay out of her way and let her work her magic.  I am used to shopping, cooking, and cleaning all on my own, so the relatively small amount of energy I have to put into these daily meals sometimes leaves me feeling a bit guilty.  (Especially knowing the effort that other SA YAGM put into each meal they eat!)

I have always despised doing the dishes; far too often letting them pile into the sink until I (or my poor roommates) couldn’t handle it anymore.  This is no longer the case…

I now gladly accept the role of dishwasher — partially as a way to ease my feelings of uselessness in the kitchen, and hopefully as a sign of gratitude for the meals that have been served to me.  I have come to love the time after meals, either in silence by myself or in conversation with another; hand-washing the dishes with a full and happy belly.

Hospitality is top notch in South Africa, and a sign of immediate thanks that I am often inclined to give rarely seems to be expected.  In my experiences, people give and share freely because they know that the gift will be returned to them in one way or another.  It seems to fit right into the Ubuntu attitude of being well in this world because we are in community with others.  Nobody keeps tabs or holds grudges about I owe you’s — people give joyfully and without hesitation.

Over the New Year, six of the other YAGM and I took a holiday away from our placement sites, and spent time together in Cape Town, SA.  We saw the sights, laughed a lot, and certainly did not help out with any dishes.  How interesting and humbling it was to jump into this week of privilege.  The time spent with my beloved YAGM was refreshing and rejuvenating, but also left me a little disheartened.  In our placement sites we are living so close to, if not directly in, the deep poverty of South Africa.  Spending a week much closer to the other extreme of the economic spectrum brought a new light to just how far South Africa (and the world) has to go before reaching equality.

I feel guilty, just as I sometimes do eating meals prepared so graciously for me.  So what do I DO with these feelings?  Mmm, not exactly sure yet.  But I know that I’ll keep doing the dishes, silently lifting up prayers of gratitude for what I have and for what others continue to bless me with.

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