So fun fact: John Green lives within a half hour drive of my house. If, like me, you are a proud member of the Nerdfighter fandom, you will know that The Fault in Our Stars movie comes out in just 28 days, which is super awesome because it means that I get to see it before I leave for Swaziland, and cry my eyes out two days before returning to Swaziland.
I was in a job interview today, and the interviewer asked what I’ms studying in school and what I want to do with my life. After I told him, he asked me a question I don’t get very often: why?
Why do I want to I want to spend ten days in Africa over the summer, instead of going on vacation or hanging out with friends? Why do I want to spend every day of the rest of my life dealing with teenagers, instead of making lots of money elsewhere? Why would I voluntarily give up the conveniences and luxuries of life in the United States for the primitive lifestyle Africa endures?
If you have read the tFiOS book, you’ll remember this little excerpt:
“There are infinite numbers between 0 and 1. There’s .1 and .12 and .112 and an infinite collection of others. Of course, there is a bigger infinite set of numbers between 0 and 2, or between 0 and a million. Some infinities are bigger than other infinities.”
I like this because I’m kind of a nerd and I like thinking about things my brain can’t actually comprehend, but also because of how true it is. Some infinities are far greater than other infinities. In the United States, we (myself included) get far too wrapped up in our lives to pay any attention to living. We don’t live in the moment, because our ideology says that if we want to be successful, we have to be constantly thinking, planning, looking ahead. We look to the best interests of ourselves, and we will fight for it. It’s in our nature; we create these lives for ourselves that are great while we’re alive, and do very little once we’re gone (but who cares? we’re not here to enjoy it!). We have the little infinities that are our lives.
But the Swazis….they know how limited their time is here on earth. They are categorically terrible timekeepers, never rushing from one place to another because they are too busy living in the moment to pay attention to the time. They don’t plan for the future; the future is usually too uncertain to plan for, not to mention the lack of resources with which to plan. They are all about living in the moment in every aspect of their lives. Each moment to be lived in becomes an infinity of its own–one to replay over and over and over in your mind and it is because of this Swazi infinities are so much greater than American infinities. Each life is made up of an abundance of infinities.
Some of my favorite Swazi infinities:
- The time between the moment Benele, our translator, told sweet Kheto that I was her sponsor and the moment it clicked in her mind that 1. she had a sponsor, and 2. I was sitting right in front of her. It was a little infinity, but a beautiful one. We started sponsoring Kheto only a few days before we met, and a lapse in communication meant I was lucky enough to experience her emotional response.
- The first time Kheto said, “Thank you for loving me.” My heart is trembles to think about it.
- The time one of my babies spent her morning washing my hands.
- The time I played catch with a group of schoolgirls and tried to learn their names…and they thought my petty attempts at speaking Siswati were worth laughing at (secretly, they loved the attention).
- The time I could bless one of the bomake (boh-mah-gay, the women who cook and take care of kids at the care pointes) my holding her three-month-old daughter while she prepared lunch. Her sweet baby fell fast asleep on my chest while I sang.
My words do not do justice to the fullness of my heart in each of these moments. It is the little things that made me fall in love with the Swazi people. These little things are my little infinity, and my biggest why.
(Nerdfighters: Don’t Forget to Be Awesome)