Jen reflects about her experience of “being”:
Sitting still has never been my forte. Playing, skipping, dancing, climbing mountains, meeting new people, walking in sunshine, and playing on the beach have always been much better alternatives. It’s a spirit of movement and moving forward and doing things that has come to define me and my outlook on life. As a kid my dad had a game he liked to call “Still” which consisted of him forcing me to sit down and be quiet when I got too rowdy. You can see where this is going. Struggling and yelling, the “game” lasted until I gave up and was actually quiet, giving some much-needed relief and peace for everyone else in the room. The sight must have been pretty amusing to the rest of the world but within my little six-year-old heart it felt like torture.
Coming to South Africa has in some ways felt like “Still” 2.0: lifestyle challenge. One of the main tenets of the Youth and Global Missions program I’m a part of is the saying “Be, not Do”. Hear it enough times at orientation and it begins to sound like an old do-be-do-be-do Motown jam that still doesn’t make any sense. Be? Not do? But doing has been a part of what defines me! I love to make things happen and pursue crazy dreams and am constantly on the move! Shifting my focus to being with my community rather than doing things for my community was a foreign concept.
On my third cup of tea already, hands covered in black paint from a fifth repainting of boxes, I gave up and took a good look around at the other six women in the room at the W.O.W. (Women of Wisdom) women’s center. All smiling, most laughing, relaxed, chatting, the smell over over-sugared coffee overpowering the room. And not a single one of them doing anything remotely “productive.” For a moment I was frustrated, but then a thought occurred to me. I’d kept myself busy for the past two hours but had I really done anything worthwhile?
A smiling glance from Caroline, a quiet, joyful intern caught me. Chatting to a woman in the sewing skills class, their conversation had been going on in rapid Afrikaans for the last half hour. The mission of the WOW center is to “inspire women and give them the support to achieve their best potential.” Painting boxes for the upcoming market day—helpful, but not exactly inspiring. Being friendly and building relationships with women in the community no matter the socioeconomic differences, encouraging each other and listening deeply—now that’s what I would call inspiring. And worth much more than any little thing I could do for the organization.