Friday, July 8, 2011

Traveling Mercies

It's been a week ( a month, a year...) of preparations. I am "ready" and "not ready" simultaneously, because, really, how can one every really be ready? I'll post a quick note about my itinerary at the end of this blog (so if you only want the "cold, hard info" rather than the "waxing poetic", scroll to the bottom.), but wanted to take a moment to reflect on the preparations for this trip. 

I've been making my rounds and saying my good-byes ("see you later"s, really: à toute à l'heure!) and it's been interesting and beautiful to receive the gifts of others, the things that they think I might need to carry me forward. Everyone speaks in their own language-- many have donated money (which let me state HOW MUCH I appreciate that), some people have given me books, traveling supplies, or conversations. These, I feel are truly sacraments, anointments, and traveling mercies. It reminds me so much of the words of the late, great Andre Dubus, "A sacrament is physical, and within it is God's love; as a sandwich is physical, and nutritious, and pleasurable, and within it is love, if someone makes it for you and gives it to you with love... Sacraments are myriad. It is good to be baptized, to confess and re reconciled, to receive Communion, to be confirmed, to be ordained as a priest, to marry, or to be anointed with the sacrament of healing. But it is limiting to believe that sacraments occur only in churches, or when someone comes to us in a hospital or at home and anoints our brows and eyes and ears, our noses and lips, hearts and hands and feet."  

Yesterday, I said "good-bye" to a group of kids I've worked with alllll year long. They are part of my "training" both for school and for life. It was a rag-tag group of kids that for the most part live in poverty, and are there to participate in programming because their parents are working to get out of poverty while I'm being with the kids. My task is to provide some sort of psychologically-based programming that will be more therapeutic than babysitting. So sometimes, I planned things, but mostly, we played-- because play is therapeutic, and it's how kids communicate. To understand this story you must understand that kids don't communicate like adults do-- not always in words and sentences and stories like I'm talking to you now. Rather they speak through play. And if you are quiet and careful and (sometimes) have some training, you can "listen" to their language. 

Anyway, last night was my last night there, which the kids knew was coming but were told again over dinner. So none of the kids verbally said anything to me about leaving really, but I was moved by a few interactions I had-- because I knew that they knew that I was leaving, and that they wanted to "anoint" me for my journey. The last few weeks I've played with a little boy who is mostly always in trouble in school and in life for being "hyperactive" and bouncing off the walls. But a few weeks ago, he was one of the only kids with me, and the two of us played for hours, and he was calm and sweet and wonderful. This week, he pulled me aside and I was a player in many of his games and constructions, but many of them focused around him protecting or saving me. This is powerful stuff for a kid!  Had this been a true therapy client of mine (and I weren't leaving), this is probably something that would come up and been explored in therapy. But sometimes, when you are trained to listen to children and their play with a "third ear", they will know it and "speak" to you outside a therapy context-- I accept it as a gift. He continued to play, and to tell me about all the dangerous things I might encounter on the other side of the playground, and then he wanted to pour dirt on me. He was so insistent. The dirt became a magic potion.  And as he poured dirt on my skin, "baptized" me with playground sand, he said, "This will keep you safe. This will protect you." 

"Not remembering that we are always receiving sacraments is an isolation the leaves do not have to endure: they receive and give, and they are green. Not remembering this is an isolation only the human soul has to endure. But the isolation of a human soul may be the cause of not remembering this. Between isolation and harmony, there is a vast distance. Sometimes it is a distance that can be traversed in a moment, by choosing to focus on the essence of what is occurring, rather than on it's exterior." 

He poured "magic potion" on my skin and said, "This will keep you safe." And I heard and was grateful. 

Now for the "itinerary": 
I leave next Wednesday night, arrive in London the following morning (Thursday)
8-hour layover in London for the day (Thursday)
Leave Thursday night, fly over night
Land in Kenya the next morning (Friday) 
Hop on a quick flight down to Lubumbashi Friday morning, and ARRIVE around 10:30 Friday morning. 
 Then the real fun begins!! :) 

A la prochaine fois, 


  1. Last night in our 'see you later,' I said, Be blessed, be safe, and be open. Empotioned (like empowered, except via dirt) as you are by your young friend, and with the heart and mind in evidence in this journal entry, I have faith that all will be well, rewarding, and life-affirming. --Martha

  2. Well said, Emily. I am traveling with you in heart and spirit and love.

  3. Emily,
    Have a safe trip. We'll be thinking of you every day and reading your posts. Love, Patty

  4. love you emily!!! can't wait to hear everything you will be doing there!!


  5. All this use of interspersed French in writing reminds me of a certain individual we both know... :)

    This is really exciting! I am so happy for you and will stay tuned to this blog as you begin the adventure!