This one made everything OK for a minute.

The parents were in town through the weekend before heading off to Cape Town, and on Saturday I took them to the Apartheid Museum and then a tour of Soweto, both repeats for me.

On our tour, however, we stopped a grocer to buy a few head of cabbage and some sweet potatoes - filled up a couple of boxes and then headed into one of the poorest neighborhoods in the whole of Johannesburg. Shantytowns. Hard to describe in detail. Dirt and mud and random wood and tin and whatnot cobbled together to make a series of small dark spaces that people call homes. Just hard to believe people live in places like this.

We're walking back towards our van, getting ready to leave, and we're being swarmed by the kids, not begging but just seeing us rare white people as a brief afternoon entertainment. Happy that we've brought dinner, wondering what else we might produce.

I'm standing there with my camera in one hand and the other one hanging listlessly by my side while I watch 15 or so of them posing for pictures with the one Chinese guy in our group.

Then I feel her little hand just slip into mine like the most natural thing ever.

Melt my iceberg heart.

It had been so long I think I kind of forgot what just holding someone's hand is like. Everything that was wrong with the world just faded away for a minute while I held my new friend's hand. There was no black or white, rich or poor, no getting on a bus back to steak dinners or sleeping one more night on a dirt floor. There wasn't family that doesn't always get me or friends who aren't always there when you need them. There wasn't any wondering where the next meal would come from. There wasn't too much work and not enough time, there weren't flights to book and new positions to consider and trying to figure out what continent to live on. There wasn't the knowledge that you couldn't go to the bathroom in the dark because it wasn't safe to walk that far. All of my problems and all the things I'm trying to figure out about life and what I should do with it just kind of didn't matter, while I was holding my friend's hand.

I just hope it was that way for her too.


ellen said...

Great story. It reminds me of a time when I visited an orphanage in Honduras. I was heading back to the States the next day and had a lot of stress waiting for me upon my return--moving, drama with a boy, etc. But when I got to the orphanage and immediately had three little girls crawl into my lap all at the same time, everything I was worried about melted away. And like you said, hopefully those were blessed moments for those kids, too. Thanks for the reminder.

Nickie said...

It's moments like you describe here...moments of connection and real clarity that make life beautiful.

It's a hard thing to put such an intangible and important idea into words, but you did a great job.