Yeah, the one who moved to Rwanda for Peace Corps, became “Lion”, and got dropped off in a tiny southern village to teach English and work in youth development.
I slid off much of the face of the earth for a couple months. And I have a PSA.
Our world is full of problems. But you already knew that.
We argue, we compare ourselves to others, we race towards “making more money” or even “giving more money and serving more people.” At some point, you have to say
It’s the magic word that preliminarily does nothing to the world around you, but it has the power to turn your focus onto things that matter.
When my Peace Corps training ended, I needed to stop.
I needed to listen to myself, my village and most importantly, to God.
I plunged into the solitude of my village and I dove deeper into my Bible and my faith. I deleted my Instagram app and jumped the Facebook ship.*(I cheated and kept the messenger app so that I could contact people if I needed to.)
I started going to bed early and getting up at sunrise. (Best time of the day). I spent time in prayer and time alone. And I spent my days listening and talking little.
You may be thinking this brought me peace and serenity.
It did not.
For the first time, I faced a lot of areas of my life I had ignored.
Areas where I had sidestepped my faith and stopped practicing spiritual disciplines that once were the foundation of my daily routines.
I realized I had started to care more about the story than the person in the story.
I had forgotten how to love people in a way that does not rely on reciprocation or affirmation.
I confronted past and present versions of myself that were ugly, gave them to Jesus, and continued moving forward.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg. And I’m sure I’ll still be chipping away in 70 years when I’ll be playing in blues band in a dive bar by the ocean. (Fact)
I don’t think it’s any secret that faith has become the most important part of my life and that I love Jesus. But I’m actually not writing this PSA for that direct reason.
Though I believe my faith is true, all I ask from my friends and those reading this, is to intentionally take some time off social media (regardless of your views of Trump) and to just listen.
I don’t mean listen in some sort of wishy washy hippy way. No. I mean practicing listening to others as a discipline of life.
Did you know it’s possible to go through an entire conversation with someone unknowingly only thinking about yourself?
The day we stop comparing ourselves to others, and start listening to their stories and asking intentional follow up questions–we will see a new generation of knowledge and thoughtfulness in this world.
I’m back and have many stories to tell. I will continue to listen. And I have so much to learn. As Winston Churchill put it,
“This is not the beginning of the end, but rather the end of the beginning.”
Or something like that.
But now, I’m ready. I’m ready to tell you stories about my village, and my life experiences in Rwanda.
Just remember to follow the advice of a graffiti rock I drove by countless times on a backroad in NH growing up:
“Stop to think. Think to stop.”
And listen. We have years to express our opinions, but the moments we have in conversations learning about each other and our stories–those moments are fleeting and finite.
Love well. Listen well. And see the world differently.
I’ve got over 600 to go! I’m excited to begin sharing my stories again. Trust me, I have lots, and expect many more soon!
Keep listening and keep your love on, people!