Saturday, November 19, 2016

Pulling out the Thorns

     The best word I could use to describe how it has felt being back in the United States after three weeks in Togo is overwhelming. It feels like the world around me is so moving so quickly and I am struggling to process things fast enough to keep up. After three weeks with no T.V. and limited access to news, re-entering the country on Election Day was an even bigger culture shock than I had expected. I guess three weeks away from all of it was enough to make me forget just how passionate so many people are about our process of electing a new leader. Politics aside, even the simplest tasks of everyday life seem more challenging at times because half of my mind is still with the new friends I left behind in Togo
     I have been getting much less feedback on my blog lately, which has made me less motivated about posting regularly. As much as I love to write, I don't want the time and effort I put into writing to go to waste, so I want to make sure the things I am writing about are truly worthwhile for me. Today, something came to my mind that I consider worthwhile, so I decided to share it with you.
     The last day I was in Togo, I had an experience that I know will be something I always remember. My friend and translator Grace, another teenage girl who lives with her, and a third woman who I had met when she came to help with some cooking, came to talk to me. I was sitting on the porch and at first I assumed they were looking for Samuel and Lauren, but they said they were there to see me. The woman said she had something she wanted to tell me before I went back home, and Grace would translate for her.
     In order for this next part of the story to make sense, you need to know about something that is a part of life in Togo. I don't know the proper term for them, but there are very tiny and almost sharp pieces of grass that get stuck in the bottom of the long skirts women wear. This happens whenever you walk outside wearing a long skirt, and as far as I know there is no effective way to prevent it.
 The only way to remove these thorns is to sit down and take them out one by one. It is time consuming and not very fun, but it has to be done. If you leave the thorns in they get stuck to your other clothes when you put the skirts in a drawer or in the washing machine.
     As the women talked to me, Grace got out of her chair and sat on the ground by my feet and her friend followed her lead. As I glanced down to see what they were doing, I discovered that they were picking thorns out of my skirt. I quickly protested, telling them not to worry about it and that I would do it later. But they ignored my protest, saying that they were glad to do it. So I sat there with one woman sharing encouraging thoughts with me and two other women carefully removing all of the thorns from my skirt. I didn't have anything to do but listen, and let them take care of me. It's hard to explain why this moment was so meaningful to me, but I think it may have changed my life in some way. To see these women who I had only known for a short time show such genuine love for me seemed to fix something inside of me that I didn't even know was broken. I went through high school at the peak of what I refer to as the "mean girl" generation, and friendships with other girls often included more backstabbing, score-keeping and drama then selfless love and understanding, so to experience such kindness in a group of women meant a lot to me.
     After my time in Togo, I have a lot of emotional thorns to pull out, and my first instinct is to pull them out myself. It feels safer to deal with my own feelings independently rather than be vulnerable and share my feelings with other people.
     It is far to soon to reach final conclusions about what I learned from my time in Togo, and how it will affect my path going forward. There are so many emotions I need to process, and not all of them will be public. But my experience that sweltering afternoon in Togo, surrounded by truly Godly women, has given me a new hope. A hope that if I am brave enough to show my thorns, there will always be people who love me enough to sit with me and help pull them out.