The one thing Noel and Tammy Cunningham asked of the group who went to Ethiopia was that we each write a "reflection" piece after we returned. They hoped we would do this in the first week, while it was still fresh in our minds. But I found I needed more time to "compost". So here it is. I thought I'd share it with all of you, but this is really for Noel and Tammy, with great love and appreciation.
Of the many, many images that so often come to mind from our trip to Ethiopia, there are three that stand out the most for me. The first is the old man who asked Marta for money, as we traveled along the road to Butajira one day. Having no cash with her, she asked if she could borrow one birr to give to him. The smallest note I had was ten birr - about the equivalent of one dollar - so I handed it over, and asked if it could be my gift to him. With tears in her eyes, Marta told me that the man had no family and no one to help him, and that the money I'd given him would feed him for a week. She told me that I would be in his prayers and I would have his blessings. This seemed like more gratitude than my small deed deserved, but then again, how do we really know what is "small"? When I think of that day, I'm reminded that everything we do for another person counts for something. No excuses - we can all do something.
The trip to the Mother Teresa orphanage in Addis Ababa was painful and wonderful, all at the same time. Near the end of the tour, in a room full of toddlers, I scooped up a tiny girl, and took a small stick from her hand, knowing it was the closest thing she had to a toy, but worried that she might choke on it. I still have that stick, and every time I look at it I see her little face, so close to mine, and her little hand, so willing to share her treasure. She didn't know that she was "lacking" a room full of toys. The only thing she really wanted was love, and that's something there really is no shortage of. When we think we have nothing to give, we're wrong. We can always share a little love.
The third thing that stays with me almost constantly is the image of a local village woman, draped in skirts and scarves, sitting under a tree in the Project Mercy compound. As we walked by her, Marta said, "She's looking for a job." She talked to the woman for a minute, and then left her there under the tree. The next day she was there again, and again the day after that. I think part of the interview process there is this test of commitment. A person who is willing to patiently sit under a tree, day after day, might prove to be worthy of the job they're seeking.
It's one month and a few days since Rick and I returned from Ethiopia. The holidays have come and gone, and a winter storm drifts white and dreamy outside the windows of our house. We're firmly, at least physically, planted back at home now, back to something like normal, but we now suspect that we'll never be quite the same as before we left. I still think of the old man and the little girl every single day. And I feel so much like the woman under the tree. I have no idea what comes next for me, but I feel like I'm waiting under a tree too. If I'm patient, and I wait there long enough, maybe the next step - the "job" I'm looking for - will find me.