Standing in the middle of a slum in Lagos, Nigeria, in rubber boots and lab coats, outside a school run by Hands at Work in Africa (google it!) and a million miles away from our reality in Charlotte, Morgan looks around. “This has to be a different world,” she says. Wearing sunglasses and a smile to spare the kids my tears, I agree, “I’m not sure how much more I can take.”
I promised follow-ups and pictures of our trip to Nigeria with Samaritan’s Feet, and suddenly, it’s two weeks later. Words are my business, but I can’t find the right ones or hit the right tone.
Though I’ve said it before, thank you for reading. The feedback was better than I ever anticipated; you became an extension of our team.
Now, you ask, “How was Nigeria?” and I don’t feel like I give an adequate answer. Truth be told, I haven’t come up with one yet. But I’ve used a lot of adjectives trying.
It was rewarding to give shoes to children who so desperately needed them, but didn’t know it. Surreal to visit the basketball court on wire road in Benin where the whole thing started. Wonderful to work alongside new friends for a common purpose. Challenging. Humbling. Amazing.
I was so proud – so proud that proud isn’t even the right word – to watch Andrew lead hundreds of players in basketball clinics and Simon Says and Knock Out, to command attention and demand respect with quiet strength and confidence, but not the least bit surprised. Of Andrew, I knew what to expect.
My surprise was reserved for Frank. I didn’t know what to expect, but he was entertaining, engaging and equal to every task. In his hands, the lamented cards depicting the story of Noah and the Ark came to life, and the children loved every minute. He was an able photographer, tour guide and bodyguard. (Awesome! Fabulous!)
There quite simply isn’t enough space to hit even the highlights. I loved getting to know Andrew and Frank’s friends and family and the pro-health volunteers that we spent time praying and eating with daily (We woke up at 5! I acted in a drama and sang “Happy Birthday” in front of the whole group!). I loved spending time hanging out in our “Queens Suite,” watching Africa Magic or CNN International on TV between bucket showers and power outages.
I loved fully experiencing the culture, from the INSANE driving to the food (chicken and rice or chicken and chips? I tasted snail!) to church (four hours! Crazy clapping!) to the clothing (real Nigerian outfits!). I loved getting to know Molly, Coach Sue, Chris, King, Manny, Al, Tracie and the whole lot. I loved ‘snapping’ pictures of the kids and showing them what they looked like on the digital camera, loved hearing people shout ‘oyibo’ at us and seeing their reactions when the white people waved back.
And as pieces of the trip have begun to fade —Frank wondered aloud at the airport just a day later, ‘Did that really happen? Were you girls really there?’ — Morgan and I standing in that slum is a moment I’ll remember vividly for the rest of my life. The culmination, almost, of a crazy idea we had a few months ago.
In trying to explain, I compared it to years ago when we found out my dad was sick. Melodramatic, maybe, but every bit as life changing, in a way that divides your life not so neatly into before and after, and binds you forever to those you share the experience with. It colors perspective, influences decision.
Never a terribly materialistic person, how can I possibly want for more now that I have seen those with so little, so happy? Usually a terribly vain person, how can I possibly care now that I have seen those unburdened, so carefree?
It’s a working analogy that I’m working to apply to my life. For now, I’ve decided on a small gesture to save money. Over time, I hope to put a dent in my $1,000 pledge to help build a school for the children served by the Hands at Work project in Lagos. Our entire team will raise a combined $13,000, which will be matched by an anonymous donor to Samaritan’s Feet, before spring.
For those of you who want to continue to be a part of the process, email me (email@example.com) or morgan (firstname.lastname@example.org). Maybe we will take another trip for the ribbon cutting.
Crazy is as crazy does.
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