Soon after leaving her site in the Cape Town area, Jen wrote about the mark the year made upon her life:
It’s official, I’ve left Cape Town 😦
This year has been beautiful, it’s been a challenge, it’s been a mess, it’s been bigger and simpler and deeper than I ever could have imagined.
I am not the same.
People have walked into my life that have left their mark in a ways that I can barely put into words. The simple yet deeply real response I have is “thank you.” Thank you for accepting a lost American into your homes and hearts, thank you for laughing with me through the cross-cultural snafus and terribly cooked meals, thank you for letting me be witness to your lives.
Grace has truly carried me through this year. The grace of others through the ups and downs of accompaniment, grace for myself allowing my heart to feel deeply every bump in the road.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s of the beauty of community. I could never have made it through this journey alone. It’s been an adventure in itself learning to rely so much on others. The real beauty came in discovering just how powerful the love of a community can be in making us wiser, stronger, more vulnerable, more loving than we could ever have been on our own.
South Africans have a word that captures the heart of this idea, Ubuntu—“I am because we are.” It speaks to the truth that our humanity is dependent upon others to share it with, that the health of any individual is dependent upon the health of the community and vice versa. Stepping into this community so many months ago I had no idea how radically I would change. The unconditional, welcoming love of my family and others has given me the confidence to become more than I was—stronger, passionate, more open, vulnerable, rooted, loving. I became more because the quiet (yet sometimes sassy, outspoken) Ubuntu love of my community believed that I could.
Goodbye for now, Cape Town. Thank you for welcoming me, shaking up my life, and changing it for the better.