hello yes this was my life
‘tis the season.
It surprised her, how brightly the stars shone that night. So close to the city, she didn’t expect it. It reminded her of another sky, the one the mountains had lifted her up to until the stars were nearly in reach. She thought of the cowboys who had taught her to two step beneath that sky. At the end of a long day, it was good to put work aside. Oh, they had taught her to work. To work steadily, patiently. To take things slow. The day’s work is called such because it takes a day. For a willing mind, there was always more to do. But then the sun went down, and the earth exhaled, and across it they danced beneath that blanket of stars, hard hands, soft hearts. The mountains rang with the twang of guitars and there, she learned what living was.
I like this, and not just because I’m missing my own Wind River. Some things get in you and never get out, I think. They become a part of you, and your heart won’t ever quite forget about them.
Wind River || Golden Sun
Oh, do my arms ever ache today!
But, lest I confuse you, let me be clear: I wouldn’t have it any other way.
If my time were longer, perhaps I would have been more willing to carry fewer bricks, or to set the children down. But my time was short; from the outset, this I knew. Yesterday, the volunteers all drove to a small village called Eguafo where we were going to be working on a project with the orphanage there. They have two big construction projects going on right now - they’re building a new school for the orphans and the community, because the current one is too small for the old children, as well as a new building for the orphanage, for the same reasons. There are many children, but not enough room. Not enough, not enough.
I don’t know what I’m saying here. I was just profoundly impacted by these children. From the moment we climbed out of our vehicle, the children surrounded us, grabbing our hands and wanting to play with us. Eventually, we wandered out to the new school. All we did was help them move concrete blocks from where they were to a new pile a little bit closer to the school. It didn’t look like much and it doesn’t sound like much but I can tell you from the way my arms feel today that it was something. It was just a very real way of seeing how much harder everything is here. The bricks were somewhere around forty pounds apiece, and they had to be carried from the village (where I saw a small boy, legs covered in concrete, making them) to the school. While it’s not far, it certainly is when you are carrying heavy bricks. The bricks have to be made, then moved, then mortar has to be made, and then the building itself has to be assembled. It’s an arduous process. The school will be beautiful when it is done.
Again and again, I am realizing that I am a part and not the whole. That is not a bad thing. I just want to do all that I can with what I have while I am here.
After moving bricks, we walked over to the new house. We were supposed to be packing dirt on the ground to go underneath the new floor, but there really weren’t enough supplies: two shovels, a wheelbarrow, a bucket without a bottom. Some people worked; I played with and held children. And how could I possible complain about the ache in my arms when all I had for them was my arms and a few fleeting minutes? I knew soon enough, I would be driving away, leaving them in the dusty village behind me. So I held them, and talked with them, and sang with them.
It’s funny, last summer, after a particularly eventful trail ride during which I had to console and encourage several panicky, crying children, I was talking with my friend Deborah, who was leading the ride, and my boss, Nick. Deborah proclaimed that I was so good with kids, that I would definitely have a huge family. I laughed and denied it, saying that I was pretty sure Jesus did not have that in His plan for my life. Nick, laughing along, said that I should watch what I said, because for all I knew, I would end up in Africa with a whole orphanage full of children! Now I am not saying that I am going to end up running an orphanage here. But. How on earth could anyone adopting a child choose just one? What about the rest?
I suppose this is why I’m going into the field I am. It might be called public health, but you celebrate the one. You see that behind every number, every statistic, is a face and a story. Every year, some 9.7 million children under five die of largely preventable causes. 9.7 million! Other estimations put it at around 21 deaths per minute; 29,000 daily. And malnourished children - which even a quick glance showed many of these children are- are up to 12 times more likely to die from these causes. I just go into the schools and wonder about the empty seats. Who are the children who haven’t made it, but, if they were born in a different part of the world, would have? What about the children whose families can’t afford to send them to school, because they need them working? What about the children who struggle and are punished in school because they cannot see the board, or because they are hungry?
Last semester, I took a grad class on current issues in developing world health, and let me tell you, some of the publications we read were devastating - and are only becoming more so the more I see. These things should not be happening. These statistics reflect something so very wrong. But I think what gets me most is the joy I see in the faces of people here. Life is so very hard, but perhaps it is what it is and you are what you are and you do what you can. But people are so joyful in the face of it. Yet this is not the way the world is supposed to play out.
I cannot do it all. I cannot do it alone. I cannot save the world. But I want to reach for big things, because I believe wholeheartedly that big things can be achieved. And I will celebrate every small victory along the way. Big things are not easy; I knew that, and I am learning that over and over. Still. Call me a young naive optimist: yes. I am. And honestly, I do not want to lose that.
So my arms ache from a day of small things. Let them.
photo 260/365: ”Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” (Henry David Thoreau)
© Ashley Herrin. Rocky Mountain National Park
I miss living across the street from Rocky and popping over every day. Take me back to the mountains, please.
Today, I received this precious little ribbon and the sweetest card from one of my dear friends from the ranch. I have such wonderful people in my life. I just needed a bit of encouragement and there it was, waiting in my mailbox.
Sentimental, and also very thankful for this girl in my life. I am so lucky to have you as a friend, Missy!