She bent down curling her small frame around the tiny frame of her daughter. I watched her breathe her in, finger her curls, caress her cheek, and inhale the peace, regarding her daughter's future, that the doctor had just gifted her. My own eyes grew wet and warm, as I watched her eyes spill rivers of salty tears. I recognized the universal language spoken the world over by mothers, as her hands gently moved over her daughter's body seeming to echo the cadence of words spilling from her lips and mingling with the tears dripping from her warm, brown eyes. There was a sacredness that clung to the moment, and I averted my eyes in an effort to not pierce that sacred with the intrusion of my presence. But in a breath she drew me in, and we were all wrapped up together, arms entwined, hearts beating fast, her mama eyes meeting mine, and despite the language barrier our eyes communicated a thousand words stolen directly from the dictionary of motherhood.
In that very moment I knew that I had to do a better job of telling a better story. A story that included how so many mamas here love their children just like so many mamas there. This mama in front of me, beaming at her daughter, despite being born into poverty in this developing country, and despite neglect and abuse, and abandonment, stretched beyond her circumstances over and over and over again in order to be a good mother to her daughter. She knocked on gates for years to find employment. She offered her daughter the first and best food, even when she too needed the nourishment. When she was shoved out to the streets to make her bed, she wrapped her small body around her infant to protect her and keep her warm. Despite hardships that I cannot even fathom, she raised her daughter on her own for three years, and her daughter was happy, healthy, cherished, and oblivious to the fact that many on the other side of the world would pity her. Her laughter is sure, and she is confident in the simplicity of her life, and the love of her mother. As a mother, as a woman, as a human, when I think of her story, I feel inspired. I don't feel the fatigue that inevitably comes after a hard story. I feel inspired to know and love this woman, and I feel inspired in my own mothering because of her. I have never doubted her love and dedication for her daughter, and I could empathize with the depth of it when her doctor broke some hard, crushing news, and her body shook with sobs, not for herself, but for her child.
In this journey, I have realized that in an effort to serve here I don't tell the better stories as much as I tell the sad ones. Looking around social media, I realize that I don't hear the better stories either. Better stories like this one, about the mothers here who do not let poverty steal away their child, who know and understand that regardless of the struggle, one of the very best gifts is the gift of being a mother.
For a long time people have used the plot of Africa to tell a sad, heart-breaking story. Anyone who follows the social media sphere of influence of missionaries, non-profits, adoptive families etc. who serve in Africa has no doubt heard these stories. The heart behind the telling of these stories is more often than not genuine in their desire to raise awareness and support for a place and people they love. There is a time and place and a need for these stories to be tenderly told. But for every devastating story told and gut-wrenching photo shared, I want the world to know the whole truth, that there are also better, beautiful stories to be told. Yes, my friends there are sad stories unfolding in this continent. I have seen things that I will never share because of the horror of them. I have seen what I wish that I could unsee. There are nights when my stomach churns and my heart bleeds because of what lies outside of my gate. These are realities. They are not made up simply to garner compassion and pull on heart strings and purse strings. But if we take a step back, we quickly realize a truth, that there are sad stories to be told in every continent. That is the reality of living in a world that was never meant to hold the weight of sin, and yearns for perfection to return.
But what I want you to know is that one, sad story cannot contain the narrative of an entire country, much less an entire continent. That's not fair. Just like one sad story cannot define your world. I have seen just as much good as I have seen bad. just as much beautiful as ugly, just as much wealth as poverty, just as much joy as sadness. The story is never just one note. There is always more depth, always more dimensions. It's the same kind of different here that it is there - a world of contrasts, of people with imperfections living inside a broken world. And with that comes stories some sad, some better, both needed.
Today I am giving my heart a break, and turning my focus to a better story. We don't know what tomorrow holds, but today I chose to pen the beautiful.