Coming Home to Joy (Notes from Kaihura)
Mr.Buechner’s Golden Pen: A Review of “The Yellow Leaves: A Miscellany”

What People Said

logo21 Hey, how was your vacation?

Incredible. Difficult.

What’d you do?

We went to Uganda on a missions trip.

That’s nice.

That word “nice,” the epitome of innocuousity (I know, that’s probably not a word, but you know what I mean), should be excised from the English language. Here it likely means “that sounds awful,” or “I’m not interested in hearing about it,” or even “end of conversation because I don’t want you telling me that I should go.” I want to say our trip to Uganda was a lot of things but it wasn’t just nice, but that wouldn’t have been. . . well. . . nice.

How was your trip to Uganda?

Great.

What did you do?

Srape, paint, put in a library, feed 800 people, and play with kids. Lots of kids. We’re hoping we can start an agricultural co-op or something so that they can become more self-sufficient.

They’ll just end up taking each other’s stuff.

No, these people work really hard and really seem honest.

I’m sure they do, but if one gets ahead, that’ll change. They’re always fighting over there.

I was prepared for that kind of conversation. Paige said she was angry for three months after she first came back. And yet it’s still frustrating. I’m well aware that our Ugandan friends are sinners just like us, but I reject the hopeless kind of thinking this person exemplifies, the sense that there’s really no sense helping these people because nothing will change.

Whenever I leave for some significant period of time, and particularly when I come back from often life-changing experiences like our trip to Uganda (I’ve had two or three), I’m reminded again of several things: some people don’t know I ever left, I am not indispensable (that is, nothing fell apart while I was gone), and many people, while polite, are not really interested in hearing about your life-changing experience. Besides, Africa is far, far away and the intense feelings you have cannot easily be communicated. Actually, you may sound a little nutty. I know, because I’ve heard people like me before.

And yet others do care. In my place of work, many of my co-workers read everything on the blog and want me to show pictures and talk about my experience at lunch one day. They may even make Kaihura, Uganda a Christmas project. Then there is the African-American woman who I talked with who, only a minute into the conversation, had tears in her eyes and told me she had always wanted to go to Africa. We can only testify and tell our stories and let God do the rest. He has to open hearts.

The most surprising reaction? That’s easy. Wednesday I’m negotiating a settlement with an attorney, normally a give-and-take process, and surprisingly he accepts my price right away, saying “I’m not going to argue with anyone who’s been in Uganda for two weeks doing what you did.” Now that’s miraculous and undeserved. (And right then I knew I should have started with a higher price!)

I don’t have to convince anyone. I don’t need to change the world. We’re all of us storytellers, that’s all, and we can’t help ourselves. It doesn’t matter so much what they said. It matters what we say. Just tell the truth and someone might just surprise you.

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