Yesterday, was one of the best days of my life. I went with Macintosh (leads program when I'm not in Liberia) to the bank to get money for our kid’s school lunches for the week and we decided to stop by one our student's homes. Princess lives behind the bank with friends of relatives. We were walking back to the main road when, for the first time, I noticed a tall-ransacked building with bright laundry hanging and children laughing with tons of families living on every floor. I pointed it out to Macintosh, he took some pictures while I headed toward the building.
I met Mercy. She is 7 years old and has cerebral palsy. I held her close. I asked her grandmother if I could go inside their home, and she brought me through a curtain in a pitch-black moist room that reeked of mold. I held a lit candle and could see the ceiling was caving. I fought to silence the voices and emotions that were at battle inside my head- I wanted to be fully present with the grandmother and her daughter. I wanted to cry, but for what? This was their life. Were they happy? They laughed. They smiled. They seemed happy. Were they mad at their government, at humanity for letting them suffer like this? Did the grandmother need to blame anyone? All of these questions were running through my head. They were just living their lives one day at a time together.
I had to keep on walking to meet more families. A guy about my age took Macintosh, Princess, and me up the broken stairs of what he told us was an old hospital that had been destroyed in the war. I was really scared the stairs would collapse as we walked. The people we met were happy to see me, and invited me into the rooms that they had made into homes. The building was full of bullet holes, and the families told me the biggest problem was that the roof leaked and the rooms would fill up with water. Monrovia is the second wettest capital in the world and it rains almost every day for at least half the year, mold was everywhere.
I love walking the streets looking at all the cool stuff that Americans throw away that end up for the sale in the market here. I like the chaos, the sun, the street food, I like the smiles of the beggars and even the aggressive business’ women. I bought a new winter hat for a dollar; Princess got a new outfit too.
The day went on as we weaved in and out of the narrow tins shacks in an area that is notoriously dangerous, but a place where I feel most at peace inside myself. Some of our children’s parents are the pimps and the gangsters and they watch out for me. Now that we have 100 students in a place where words spread like poison ivy people know the crazy white girl, her friends, and her camera are there because they love children.
The sun was going down and I saw people crowded around a candle weeping, someone’s new born baby died.
I try my hardest to feel what people feel. I wonder how life would be if I owned nothing but the shirt filled with holes on my back. If my mom or sister was sick and I was powerless to help them because we lived on less than a dollar a day, which we sweat in the hot sun laboring to fight for. Would I be able to love as loud as these people do? Would I have half the resilience, peace and joy?
In the face of big problems, the real joys in life seem simple. They are all around, sometimes in places you would never expect. Why do we make it so complicated?
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