mungu ata kusaidia.

November 2, 2008

i used to love to take long drives. before the oil crisis and its unreasonable gas prices. before my conscious became green and i realized that caring for mother earth required more than a specific bucket for tin cans. before i had a more-than-full-time job. before i entered the glamour-free world of graduate studies. before all of it i used to love to take long drives. it started in high school on the afternoons when i just wasn’t ready to go home quite yet. those days when i needed to be quiet for a bit before i entered another environment which would beg my interaction. those driving times grabbed hold of me like a drug, and i continued the luxury beyond the days of my youth and into the early years of adulthood. i used to find solace in a few hours spent with only my thoughts and my favorite musical companions. alone in that car i was granted the freedom to cry out or just cry, to sing at the top of my lungs or smile at the beauty of the passing scene, to be courageous enough to hope or safe enough to fear. alone in that car i was free to ache without the guilt of how it affected others. those hours, smoothly tracing the county roads, gave room for my emotions to leak out. they gave room for my thoughts to settle and clarity to slide in.

today as i followed the winding path of the mount baker highway, i felt like i used to on my long drives. it was early morning. the dew was still frozen and covering the earth like a silver blanket. the gleaming light of the new sun was simultaneously harsh and gentle as it flooded everything. the colors in the hills tricked my mind into thinking the trees were on fire. the leaves literally danced in the center of the road in front of me. it was almost hypnotizing to watch them. as i looked in my mirror i could see that the passing of my car only sped their dance up. the world, in all its death, was radiating life. the music coming from my speakers was familiar and comforting. heading away from my literal family and towards my figurative family on this sunday morning, i was grateful for the quiet in between. in those forty-five minutes of twisting though the heart of autumn, i found solace in my own thoughts, the courage to hope and the safety to fear, the freedom to ache, and i sung at the top of my lungs.

and i thought about the chalkboard hanging in my bedroom. the chalkboard that i have written different collections of words on over the past year. it’s been used to remind me of questions, truths, and beauty. i thought about the words that have been resting on that chalkboard for the past two months: mungu ata kusaidia. this summer in tanzania there were a small number of volunteers who spent significant amounts of their time making home visits to people who were sick with, or dying of, AIDS. they would sit with them, talk with them, listen to their stories, attempt to comfort or offer temporary relief from their pain, and touch them. sounds basic enough, but in a world where having AIDS propels you into social exclusion – where you are no longer listened to or spoken to, where you are not offered comfort and never touched – these home visits were anything but basic. as the volunteers left each home, they would speak these words: mungu ata kusaidia. it’s the swahili version of God bless you, but literally translated it means God will help you.

my heart is weighted down. not weighted down in the sad, heavy, burdened sense. but rather, it’s weighted down because so much is resting there, in it, right now. last summer changed me. it must have. because i am in a new place. inside of myself i am in a new place. i have returned to a familiar home, but inside i am in a foreign land. seeing new things. feeling in new ways. believing differently. loving strangely. listening distinctively. i seem to be speaking a new language. i am at peace. i am hopeful. i am feeling brave. and my heart is weighted down. most of what’s resting in my heart is beautiful and warm, only small bits are sad. but all of it makes me ache.

and today, as i drove, i thought of the words written on my chalkboard, mungu ata kusaidia. in english we say, God bless you, but isn’t the blessing God’s help? God will help you. how nice to say that, to remind someone of that. when you’re grandparents bodies are betraying them and you don’t know how to not be completely sad about it, mungu ata kusaidia. when you feel yourself changing directions, and you’ve lost the map, mungu ata kusaidia. when you discover you might not be in love with someone, mungu ata kusaidia. when your country is in despair, mungu ata kusaidia. when your world is at war, mungu ata kusaidia. when you miss so much you physically hurt, mungu ata kusaidia. when you want desperately to tell the story of redemption to others, or even yourself, mungu ata kusaidia. when you forget, mungu ata kusaidia. when you see something so beautiful you want to remember it forever, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re not sure you’re doing it right, mungu ata kusaidia. if you wish you loved better, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re tired and want to quit, mungu ata kusaidia. if you’re full of life and want to keep going strong, mungu ata kusaidia. when you are feeling alone, mungu ata kusaidia. if you are an orphan in tanzania, mungu ata kusaidia. if you are rich, mungu ata kusaidia. if you think you may be falling in love, mungu ata kusaidia.

and I will keep those words on my chalkboard. because i believe they are reminding me of truth. that my God helps. and that is a blessing. and it may seem simple. offensively simple, almost. but i don’t care. as I drove the twisty road, watching the leaves dance and the earth glisten and the trees burn, my thoughts settled and clarity slid in. the place i am navigating these days is foreign because suddenly i am acutely aware of mungu ata kusaidia, God will help you. it’s coloring everything: my vision, my feelings, my words, my love, my beliefs. it’s coloring my peace and hope and courage. and most of it is beautiful and warm, only bits of it are sad.

but all of it makes me ache.

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4 Responses to “mungu ata kusaidia.”

  1. Stead said

    Beautiful. So true. So true.

  2. s said

    it’s good to remember that god will help. sometimes we [and by “we” i mean “i”] forget. but he does. thanks for writing.

  3. Alex Fritz said

    Wow… That was intense. 🙂 Don’t hurt yourself with writing like that. Miss ya friend!

  4. Lacy Rain said

    He WILL. Thank you for the reminder. I look forward to seeing you soon.

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