'Life, oh life, oh li-ee-eh-i-ife, oh life, doo doo doo doo.
I don't want to see a ghost, it's a sight that I fear most,
I'd rather eat a piece of toast and watch the evening news.'
...Yup... however catchy the song is, these are potentially the silliest lyrics I have ever heard. They come from the song 'Life' by Des'ree which you need to hear if you haven't, for the sake of being funny.
(Have a listen http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eby0bVEIWcs)
But really, in some senses, a large portion of life is a quite funny isn't it.
I for one could spend a countless amount of time (and may have done on the odd occasion) searching Youtube for funny cat videos, which leads to 'funny cats and dogs compilation', leading onto 'funny cats in water' and finally somehow leaves you watching a baby making 'i'm pooing right now' faces... but that's when it verges on being weird and you should probably stop Youtubing. Not to mention countless silly conversations where you make a friend say 'Nis-Pee' over and over again, or, 'I live on a pirate ship' while putting two fingers on the inside of their cheeks and stretching them out wide... If you've just done that now HA, can't believe you just said that!!
Life in all of it's complexities can also be a bit funny... and with that funniness, I find, comes joy.
It got me thinking about the different aspects of Mali that have stuck with me in these past eight months, there is absolutely suffering, sadness and desperation, but the thing that absolutely blew my mind was the amount of pure joy and laughter there is in the midst of all of that... the Malians sure know how to have fun!
I remember the day when we went to our first drip-irrigation garden and met a lady called Awa. That morning I was in a haze of shock and sadness from the suffering we had seen and felt in the Kog'noumami the day before. It's hard to explain exactly how I felt, the only word to describe it really is numbness. I had come out of my small-world-ignorant bubble and realised that this world is a lot bigger than I had thought... and has more suffering in it than I had imagined. I was walking around the drip-irrigated garden that World Vision had funded and I could see the greenery of the vegetables, the life compared to the desert that lay outside the fence... but it didn't hit me, what this garden actually meant to the people, till I sat down with Awa. I reluctantly went into a conversation with her, trying to act as if this numbness wasn't overwhelming me when really it felt like I was shutting off... too much to take in for little old Sophie. But I asked her questions, and found out what the profits (from the vegetables they sell) allows them to afford, and how the garden had allowed them to eat in every season, but it wasn't till I asked Awa, "What does this garden mean for you?", that my haze began to subside. She looked at me and said simply, "This garden means freedom, freedom from hunger." It still gives me goosebumps thinking about that moment when I realised the joy in knowing that one simple drip-irrigated garden has funded freedom for a whole village, for Awa. It was that moment when I realised that actually, every little bit of my time and money spent helping to make this happen for them is worth it.
After we had sat and talked about the garden Awa, our translator and I simply had a chat. As we talked about the day Awa began to tease me about my slowness and lack of muscles in pumping the water for her watering can (even her young daughter was faster than me), we laughed about my terrible accent when saying hello/ thank you, "Aniche", to them and how I'd accidentally spent the whole day enthusiastically saying "Achine" instead. I told Awa that I'd make a vege garden in my garden the next summer to remember her by, she told me 'she'd come and visit sometime' as she cracked into a laugh.
There is something magic about Awa and the people we met who in the midst of their situation, when materially they have nothing, still have ingrained in them this deep sense of joy and fun .
I loved hearing this story from Devon (my epic World Vision mentor) about a photo exhibition we had of some of the pictures from the trip a few weeks ago. She said that she had walked around the room a few times and each time she had seen this man standing by the same photo, completely absorbed in it. The photo was simply a boy walking away from the camera in a scenic shot of the land - nothing special really.
On Devon's third time around the room she stopped and asked him what it was about the photo that had him so hooked. His reply, "This photo is everything!" Puzzled, she asked him to explain. He said again, "This photo is everything! There's the land, to the left are some farmers with their cows, in the middle is a watering hole to drink from and to the right are their huts to live in. This photo is literally their everything." When I looked at the photo after Devon told me what the man had said, it was totally true. Everything that filled life in a Malian village was in that shot... and they are joyous about it!
It makes me think about something Rob Bell, a pastor and author, said on his video 'Drops like Stars'. How some people can have everything yet possess nothing, while others, like Awa, can have nothing yet possess everything. Life in all of it's complexities and well, fluffiness, really is about what you possess inside of you isn't it? And what Awa has is deep joy - she has that to keep and to share. That came as a surprise to me - I thought I was there as one to see their need and learn how I could help to meet that need, but what she could share with me was so much more important... that deep joy that no material 'thing' can bring.