with love and paint-splatters

June 21, 2006

In the mail last week I received a copy of a book recently published by a Doctor, about his almost 40-year career in Zambia. Gazing at the book’s striking cover [blazing orange sunset over unmistakably African plains], the author’s name brought a flood of bittersweet memories. Unaware that the book existed or, for that matter, that any book about my home village had ever been written, I opened it with an uneasy thrill: thrilled to revisit memories of those close to my childhood heart, and uneasy with the fear that it would be in some manner deficient in its portrayal of the home I loved so deeply. Or worse: that it would fall prey to the easy temptation of all outsider perspectives on a native culture—that of devaluing, even in the most unintentional or miniscule manner, the society’s ways of living, of being.
So the other night I set aside my lesson planning, school readings, and ongoing art projects, and read the book: To Africa with love, by Dr. Jim Foulkes. I did not put the book down until I reached the end that night [barring a mid-reading break to take a phone call].
It was no doubt more meaning to me, with my particular interest, than necessarily to your average reader. And the writing itself was not award-winning, at least from my limited experience as a Creative Writing teacher :-)
But the stories that were told—and more importantly the people about whom they were told—were tremendously inspiring. It is humbling to realize how caught up I get in the stresses of daily life here in the U.S. [the minor, fleeting stresses], when daily life for some involves stresses as to . . .
whether that was an innocent fly on little Jacob’s knee earlier . . . or if we should suspect a Tsetse fly and be wary of Jacob’s drowsier-than-usual little eyes . . .
Granted, I try not to downplay any one manner of life stresses as inherently less valid than others: I am fully aware that we are placed in this one life, in this one season of life, by divine providence—“for such a time as this . . .”
It behooves us all, however, to daily remind ourselves of the grander scheme of it all, and of the relatively minor nature of many of the things it is so easy to waste worrying energy on. I, for one, am prone to forget, at any given moment, that when all is said and done no one will care about [to draw from one current scenario in my daily life] the spot of “Dove Gray” paint that mysteriously drifted from Bradley’s paintbrush, over his head, and squarely onto little sister’s new light yellow Pocahontas purse. What will matter, however, is the burst of excitement and artistic achievement that caused Bradley to swing his paintbrush-laden arm into the air to begin with.

This is my reminder to myself, at least, after a day in which I was disappointed in my own ability [or lack thereof] to remain focused on students’ learning processes rather than on interruptions to my day’s to-do list . . .

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