There is a certain inspirational element to Africans that I have yet to figure out. They have this perspective and view on life that is so... in so many ways... right.
I will share what I learned from her. After hearing all of this, I almost booked a flight to Africa the very next day.
She was sitting on this exercise bike when I arrived and clocked in. She started using it, and then 30 seconds later, told me, "I feel sorry for myself."
I looked at her. "Why is that?"
"Because," she said, "After less than 1 minute on this, and I am out of breath!"
She continued to express to me how frustrated she was because she had not been exercising, and how hard it is in the winter. I asked her if many people in Africa exercise. She told me that most don't. They are either too lazy and do not realize it is something healthy to do, or they work really hard and walk everywhere, anyway. If anyone exercises in Africa, it is for leisure.
She told me that Africa is stress-free. You just don't worry about anything there like you do here. When she worked there, she started thinking about the weekend on Wednesday. Most hold a 7a-5p job. Unless you are in the healthcare field (and even then, it's rare), there is no need for 2nd or 3rd shift. At 5pm, almost everyone packs up and heads home. She said if you were sick or unable to come to work, it's no problem at all. If you have a good track record, they readily excuse you and still pay you for the days you miss. She said that weekends are a time to go to the beach, buy fruit, and relax. No one works or stresses on the weekends. They are laid back.
Most who are middle class and above, regarding the area she is from, can afford a maid, cook, nanny, and gardener. She told me, "I did nothing when I lived in Africa. If I needed a cup of coffee, I would tell someone and they would bring it to my desk." She also said that if she went back to Africa and had a child right now, she would not have to do anything with the child. The nanny would completely care for the baby and attend to all the needs. You could get away with not seeing or playing with your child for a whole week.
She told me that until she came to the states, she had never heard about obesity, depression, or anxiety-related problems. It is just not an issue or concern in Africa. Most there do not worry or stress, so they don't have the physical ailments associated with it. Here in the states, so many are busy, stressed out, and have more on their plate than they can handle; and the physical diseases and sicknesses that result from it are evident.
When she came to America, she said that she cried the first time she had to wash her own dishes. This seems contrary to what we often stereotype of Africans, but she said in Africa, you become so used to having everything taken care of. She said that washing dishes or doing housework is considered to be "lower" work, and not something you do because most of the time, you can afford to have someone else do it for you. It was a rude awakening when she came to the states and saw how much work you do on your own. So in that way, she said that America teaches you to take ownership in what you have, responsibility, independence, education, and activity, while Africa teaches you to find joy despite not having those things. America's culture causes stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental and health problems. Africans are generally more lazy and slow-moving than Americans, but are usually healthier and happier. It's an interesting trade-off.
She told me that most travel to her side of the world to be a missionary, but she came to the US to be a missionary. I admire her heart and her love of Christ. She told me that for once in her life, she feels like she is serving and caring for others in a way that gives meaning to what she does. In Africa, her job did not allow her to do that.
I was so blessed to have this conversation with her and learn more about where she grew up and her experience in Africa. It was obviously a lot different than what I experienced in the area I visited, but fascinating, nonetheless. She did note that most who have never been there view Africa is an entirely poor, orphaned area with exotic animals roaming around. While this is partly true, there are areas that are built up and very westernized, and those who do have jobs and make a living have a nice lifestyle. I always enjoy listening to her... her information is so interesting and her perspective so inspiring.
After she left, I thought about how big of a culture change it must have been for her to come to the states. Then, I thought about how interesting it would be if I moved to Africa and worked a job there. How it would totally change my view, perspective, and priorities.
It is interesting to see how God worked on my heart by using Africa. So far, I can tell He has really opened me up. I know it's easy to say this post-mission trip, when everything is so fresh and exciting. Yet I will not allow that to diminish the work I think the Lord has done in me, which includes a spirit of joy, a heart that is so much more open to Him & His plan for my life, and a heightened, personal awareness of the oppressed and fatherless. I have concluded that even if the He just wants me to stay planted exactly where He has me for the time being, there is still so much work to do in the spot that I'm at.
Love you all!