I am in a great mood. Perhaps it is due to the fact that I am leaving for El Salvador tomorrow for a bit of adventure and respite. Perhaps it is due to a successful Ruta Maya, paddled by my roommates. Or, perhaps it is due to my lovely walk to work this morning. Who knows.
This morning, I made it about 50 feet from my house when a car pulled up next to me, the window rolled down, and the driver said, “hello beautiful.” I was about to dismiss it as another annoying come on, when I took the time to actually look at the driver and realized that it was our friend, Robert. His father, Mr. Lizama was in the passenger seat. This is wonderful in many ways. Mr. Lizama had been in the States for MONTHS with his wife who was being treated for cancer (there is no cancer treatment in Belize). Seriously, months. I hadn’t seen him in a looooooooooong time. It was surprising and just really great to see him in the passenger seat. They pulled over and Mr. Lizama jumped out and gave me a huge hug. He said I must come over and see Mrs. Lizama, which I can’t wait to do. He said it was nearly terrible and he almost brought her home in a box (crude, but very true), but then he gave me a ‘pound’ (very Belizean) and said how good God is. He was so happy to see me, and the feeling was mutual. He said, ‘I’m so happy you never left before I came back.” Wow. That made me so happy—whether he truly meant it or not, he made my day by saying that. I’m often amazed at people here who enter friendships and relationships with us KNOWING that we will be leaving in 2 years. Think about it---it’s not too frequent that you enter a friendship with someone with a finite ‘end’ date, because unlike the states where a person might move away but communication can remain frequent, when we leave here, we leave. Our friends and loved ones here don’t all have phones or computers or even know how to use or access those things. Mr. Lizama is one of those people who continuously, generously, selflessly enter into relationships with us (the Pantons are also those people, along with Ms. Cherry and all others who give their hearts to us and allow us to give them ours). Anyway, Mr. Lizama had made my day and I smiled as I continued on my way to work. Next, I passed Ms. Pamela, the ‘wife’ (well, the common-law wife) of a co-worker of mine. We exchanged ‘mawnin’s’ as we both walked on. Shortly after passing the fish market, I saw Pops for the 2nd time this morning! He said, ‘all right’ and I waved in response. Even the habitual ‘hey sexy lady’ and ‘beautiful white gal’ comments didn’t get me down this morning. I was enjoying the people around me, the pace at which I walked, the smells of Belize, and the lazy bustle (if you’ve been here, you know this isn’t an oxy moron) of life in the mornings.
It made me think of our last retreat which was on simplicity. Too often, I equate simplicity and living simply with ‘stuff’ like using less resources (water, gas, electricity). This retreat was on the simplicity of life and how that relates to all our ‘other’ stuff---time, memories, relationships. We talked about how having all that other stuff complicates our relationship with God and walking closer to God is, indeed, living as simply as we can. Simple living, walking with God, all these lead us to living ‘just’ lives, which is what we strive to do but somehow we let ourselves get lost in the clutter of memories, appointments, obligations, and life. I say I want to live ‘justly’---I need to rearrange my priorities. Yes, using fewer resources is wonderful---we all should try to consume less, use fewer things, recycle, unplug, and all that---but also I need to slow down, walk to work for the sake of seeing Mr. Lizama, Ms. Pamela, Elvis (yes, his name is really Elvis and I normally pass him every morning as he says ‘mawning miss maria’), and the other myriad of folks who I know and love here. I need to not cling to memories of past times. Having memories is great—truly, but ‘clinging’ to them is living on the dangerous edge of letting our possessions posses us. It’s not just material possessions, folks.
This is what I fear I will do when I get back—cling so fiercely to my memories of Belize, be protective of them and not want to share them. That’s not ‘just’; it’s not letting my stories and memories speak and teach and give; it’s not letting the people in my stories and memories speak and teach and give, either. But, still, I know I will do this. I will do this because I worked so hard here and no one else will know truly what it is like. I will do this because I will feel that I am somehow protecting my friends, their lives and reality. I will do this because I will feel that I don’t want to exploit Belizeans or be a poverty tourist if I tell true stories that I know will shock and humble others.
I’m not proud that I will do this, but I know I will. So, I ask for your help and prayers that I can remember that I strive to live ‘justly’, live simply. I ask for your help and prayers that I figure out the how to allow Ms. Cherry and Mr. P to inspire folks in the States they have never met. And I ask for your help and prayers to never let me forget that we are all brothers and sisters, that we belong to each other, and to let my actions spring forth from there.