Three Christmas Gifts


It’s tough to narrow down my list of gifts received in recent days for life itself offers us such a bounty.  But there have been a few moments of note and I thought that it would be nice to share.  What I’m writing here, is about as close to my heart as I can get in words, and yet I post this on a day and in a place where few are likely to ever read what I write.  So I guess it could be said that I write to remind myself.

I am finally working my way through the first chapter of a long awaited book by a favorite professor from my university days.  I don’t know much about the project only that he has chosen to begin with Africa and the program that he had the wisdom to set up a while back.  As a lead in to my initial thoughts upon reading, I’d like to remember a salve for my soul that came by way of NPR a while back.  I was listening to the reports of the celebration of Nelson Mandela and the African correspondent made the point that in Africa, it is universally acknowledged that what we in the west call death is a transition from our material world to the spirit world.  It is a lonely life to hold such truths in solitude and that has been my lot so far.  To hear even a little sentence or two of a place where what I know to be true is the universal knowing feels like a great relief.  Now, back to the book…I read exclusively while nursing and so it was during a side-switch that I was struck by a thought, that in my heart of hearts I am African and yet in this material world I’m pretty far from it.  And then I read this:
Flying a world away, little did I know that Ghana would return me to a welcoming world of childlike curiosity; nor did I “pre-imagine” that daily encounters with its incredible citizenry would remind me, over, and over, and over again of who I am at my core – a person who loves people.
Each day, new introductions and yet another occasion for handshakes.  But no one mechanically shakes my hand; rather, each Ghanaian “stranger” holds my hand compassionately, while making eye contact as though we were old friends.  Many would call me “sister”, opening their hearts to me in a moment – an act seemingly so profound to many, but for me, so beautifully human.  With deep trust, each gave full expression to their belief that, “caring is not just for those in one’s immediate circle of family” – but for every person, “strangers” included.
Retracing my steps…flying a world away, yet again, how can I ever fully describe such incredible showings of trust and trustworthiness to others, back home?  I can’t.  Instead I am left with a grateful heart and the hope that others will get to meet the beautiful Ghanaians who so deeply changed the way I now see the world.  Initially, I feared that I would never experience people so genuine, so caring, so trusting, and so full of faith again.  But then I quietly realized that all of us have these qualities at our core.
All I needed was a little reminding.
-Laura Sewall, Studio ’12

With that passage, I shed a tear, felt my gratitude, and had a renewed sense of knowing and courage.  These places of our individual lives are but constructed stages.  The real and enduring place is deep within ourselves and I would dare to say that Africa is the vast place on this planet of ours that holds that place of true connection sacred.  Indeed, we ought each to be very grateful to that continent and what it holds for “each of us” in holding the knowledge that there is only the “all of us”.

Every word in this chapter could serve as the beginning of a lengthy and interesting conversation.  I will say this much more, that Africa is indeed the place to start and I thank my professor for acting rightfully on his knowledge of that.  It is the essential place on this planet, the place where we can each return to the basic truths of our existence and from that point of departure, survey the vastness of possibilities that is life in every moment.

I have NPR to thank once again because last night during my 7 minute drive to my chiropractor I was (atypically) tuned in (these days our classical station is our music of choice since I a doing my best to cultivate a certain knowing of musicality in my young son).  It was a very productive 7 minutes because I also realized that my husband had less than 24 hours to initiate his health insurance research.  And while we are grateful to have been clued in, what followed wasn’t exactly fun and this post is pretty much about things that make me so grateful I cry, so the great rush for health insurance doesn’t apply.  What does is the news story about a Federal Judge in Utah who has enabled thousands of couples in that state to apply for a marriage license.  In hearing that piece of news I felt a swell of joy, perhaps a taste of the feeling that those who are finally permitted to express their love and commitment in a public way feel.  In any event, I am grateful to bear witness to the  the opening of the love-floodgates even if while making a quick drive.  I personally believe that marriage is an important rite of passage and I can’t imagine a good reason to prevent any two people who wish to cross through that passage from doing so.  The timing seems all the more special for the folks who stand to benefit the most from the judgement of one person – what a Christmas gift!

Last Saturday, just after the hour of its closing, I made a fast and frenzied trip to our farmer’s market to pick up veggies and Swedish Bitters.  Although my basket was heavy with purchases upon departure, I was was walking lighter with the joy that I have discovered a little place of community at that weekly market.  Rupam Henry is such a force of love and kindness, I am always comforted in her presence even when I pay her booth a very brief visit.  Each visit proves that I am not the only person who is nurtured by Rupam and I have enjoyed discovering  the community that surrounds our local healer.  Beyond her small space is the market at large.  Because I work on the weekends, and because I am a working mom, it is rare if not never that I have the time to visit a marketplace leisurely, and we are blessed with many such marketplaces here, but this one has something special.  Even popping in and out, I am grateful to be a resident of Oakland.  This city of ours that is full of so many cultures, and much grist for our collective mill, always gives me something to think about, a way to open my heart a little wider, and all the comforts of home.

And now, I must begin the final preparations for our family’s Christmas celebration.  We must prepare ourselves for Santa’s brief but oh so momentous visit!
I Send A Very Merry Christmas Wish to All!

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