On Community.

  • Drinking: Tazo tea from the States & matching it with locally baked lemon butter biscuits.
  • Listening to: The silence. It’s been a noisy two weeks.
  • Wearing: My new slippers & scarf. See below!

Hello, cheri.

Tonight I come to you with a very full heart. After two weeks away, spent in sweet, sea-side George, the thought of returning to cold, concrete Johannesburg was more than a little daunting. See, I went to the South to cover an International World Changers site, which is basically just a large-scale mission trip comprised of a bustling bunch of youth out to make a difference. Half hailed from all over the States — North, South, East & West — & half were locals. In this case, there was a total of 60 of them. Sound scary yet? It did to me. But as I met each one of them & watched them throughout the week, I was humbled by their hearts. Even though as a journalist I was only an observer, an outsider, they let me into their lives — their stories, their meals, their laughter, & their arms. (Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I got that many hugs in that amount of time.)

These youth came to George to give love to that community, & in the crossfire they gave love to me & to each other. Even when times got rough — the first few rainy days flooded the tents where they were staying & made the cool weather that much colder, not to mention gave everyone the sniffles or worse — their attitudes were unaffected. Always offering a smile or a hand to hold, they called themselves a family & that’s truly what they were, though they looked anything but the same. Not only did you have Americans along with Africans, but there were representatives of nearly every ethnic group in this still quite separate society together &, as a fellow Tennessean put it, “loving one another good.” The community that formed was absolutely beautiful. There’s just something that feels right & true about people of all sorts living together in such harmony. I have to believe that’s the way it was always supposed to be.

And though I’ll miss the family I’ve left, as for tonight I’m kept company by the love of another family: The one waiting for me at school in Tennessee. See, my fears of lonesomeness were exchanged for a bag full of letters — all the mail I’ve been missing while I was away. And along with the first letter I’ve received since my arrival in Africa (the only other piece I’ve gotten was torn open & taken) were countless others, hand-written & tucked inside their packages with tea bags & slippers, a Polaroid & a silk scarf, an old book on etiquette. I tore into each one & then savored it slowly, like a good bar of chocolate, laughing out loud at your jokes & smiling as I remembered each of your faces & imagined you sitting down with your pen & paper in-hand, sending well-wishes to me.

Looks like I’m already part of a community that cares for its own.

All my love.