“Not that I am implying that I was in any personal want, for I have learned how to be [content (satisfied to the point where I am not disturbed or disquieted) in whatever state I am.
I know how to be abased and live humbly in straitened circumstances, and I know also how to enjoy plenty and live in abundance. I have learned in any and all circumstances the secret of facing every situation, whether well-fed or going hungry, having a sufficiency and enough to spare or going without and being in want.”
One evening in in May 2003, I was Home. Experiencing South Africa. The sun was setting, and we all were on our way back home headed for an almost two-hour trip and I was taking pictures and captured this golden color in the sky. It sort of looked as if there was a slight rainbow in the sky, yet the opposite was true. Some of this color in the sky was the fires burning in the air. I asked my friends why there was so much smoke. They said the people would get rid of garbage that was days old in the shantytowns, and the smoke was the best way to do that. In some neighborhoods, it was really hard to breathe, so we had to leave for fear of breathing in too much smoke that evening.
I recall a few things: the burning smell. The smell of garbage and the suffocating air that made me feel sick to my stomach. I wondered how the people could live in this environment, then I realized they didn’t have much choice. That was the lucky one, I didn’t have to go back home to a polluted environment, and if I did, then maybe I would have the choice to move away.
My self and a family of four, a pastor, his wife and their two teenaged daughters were trying to get out of the neighborhoods before dusk disappeared, and there was no light. There were no garbage men to come and collect trash like we have the pleasures in America. What we have in our own neighborhoods, I realized is a luxury. The dilapidated “shanty homes” that are located in their small villages made me sad. Everything appeared to be so dark, that evening in a small town outside of Johannesburg, South Africa.
I watched the faces of the people I was with, and wondered if they were as sad about this scene as I was. I saw their noses turned up, sadness? i wondered… or was it disgust? Perhaps t was memories of their past… I would never know.. they were not that open about their pasts. Yet it seemed as if they were remembering something from their pasts, and I felt their pain. The care was a
deafening quiet as we dove out of the area. It was if this area made them sadder they have ever been. I believed I saw some sense of apprehension
that was on their faces. They had much love for the people; however, for when their friend’s faces appeared at the doors – their faces lit up brightly, and they relished in seeing the warm smiles that welcomed them. Their frowns no longer there, and nothing but for the love of the people.
There were bright spots in that day, however. I was able to go by Diane’s house. ( I am so surprised I even recall her name, its been ten years now….) But I will never forget Diane. She lived in a room the size of of a large bathroom in a suburban home. I was embarrassed for her. That she lived with so much lack. Yet the home somehow seemed enough for her, in that moment. She had the brightest smile. And often seemed contemplative. Diane said she would come and spend the day with us, tomorrow. She said she was ‘happy to be alive’ and to have a job, and a very nice car. Her car was burgundy… shiny and new. It appeared it was worth much more than her home. Se said she was b “a diamond polisher”, but when we ended her home, I could see she really didn’t have much to show for this job. There was barely enough room to move around in. Her home was one room. Maybe he side of my living room, in my small apartment. She said she polished diamonds all day. I almost cied for her once I found out her wages. It made me sad to hear se made so little, and she worked at a diamond mine but barely bought home enough to live in a tin shack.
Yet Diane was happy. I felt she deserved so much more. Her personality and her warmth, her smile – even, informed me she was not one who wanted much more. She seemed content. Even in this state.
Driving though a neighborhood like this in S. Africa, you learn to appreciate what you have. You , the fresh air, a sun you can actually “see”, and it isn’t covered by smoke and haze….a smile on the faces of the people in the area, the flowers …in full bloom.
Other than people who I saw walking around in the area that day, I don’t recall seeing anything resembling having life other than people who lived there. This made me really saddened, but the people who HAD life… WOW… did they have it… indeed they did.
Today, …When I think about what I have and I don’t have, I go back to the thought of Diane. And her home, and her smile. And I realize that I cannot complain. God is good and I need to accept that what I have, and what I own… is enough.
I am learning to be content. In every moment and every situation, and perhaps even in every detail of my life. The silly boyish grin my husband gives me when he looks into my face’ the way the sun shine through my morning window… the way my nieces and nephews stare at me when they haven’t seen me in a while…
An so yes… my heart truly ached for the people in that small town outside of South Africa. I recall the laughter. the melodic voices, the singing and the greetings more than anything else from that visit. I enjoy remembering the company I kept with them, the contentment in their souls, and the smiles they kept close to their hearts.