Children's hearts are so pure. They speak from a place that knows no words. While he spoke no English, and I spoke no Hindi, this little boy from a small village in the western desert of Rajasthan was more than pleased to show me his goats. He plopped the soft, baying babies on my lap and giggled with glee when I would kiss them on the nose. He would point to his eyes whenever he wanted to tell me something and although we couldn't speak, I felt like I had an entire conversation with him, just heart-to-heart, from one child to another...
What do you do that makes you feel like a child again?
"A woman is like a tea bag, you only know how strong she is when she is put in hot water." Eleanor Roosevelt
Jill Heyes, founder of Original T-Bag Designs, is a strong woman of immense creativity and compassion. I felt so fortunate to meet her, and her employees, at the Original T-bag Designs factory outside Cape Town, South Africa. Through the transformation of something as simple as an "old bag", both her life and the lives of the Imizamo Yethu are transformed forever. I hope her story inspires you to the possibilities within us all.
Her story, as well as those of the Imizamo Yethu, is told directly in the video below. Warning: grab tissues!
"What animals did you pray to see today?" Moses, our good-natured safari guide asked on our first day of safari, as we bumped and jutted along the dirt roads of the Serengeti. All three of us, myself and two co-workers from London that I met serendipitously at a hotel, remained silent. This silence seemed to baffle Moses. "What? Did you not pray to see the animals? Do you not have religion or faith in the Lord?"
In Tanzania, the Lord is everywhere. He's plastered on billboards, bumper stickers and the back of buses, or the dala dalas, as they call them. These dala dalas, or VW vans packed with the people, luggage, and sometimes livestock, ride up and down the dirt roads blasting messages of the Lord. Sticker decals on their sides shout, "The Lord is Magic!" Or warn, "No Lord, No Life!"
And Lord knows, there are people in Tanzania that could use the Lord's magic. The material poverty of the place hits you immediately and lingers long afterwards, like the scent of the Serengeti's red earth settling into your shoes.
I vividly remember my first day in Arusha, arriving to rows and rows of corroded steel shacks that were busting at the seams with the young, the old and the in-between. Sweet-faced children in school uniforms, many only five or six, rushed up to tourist buses and taxis begging for money. One asked me for my half-empty water bottle. At an open-air market, people sorted through a wheelbarrow of old, mismatched shoes. Next to the wheelbarrow, a vendor sold stretched-out bras and once-used underwear. The place smelled of day-old fruit left rotting in the sun. In the distance, someone was burning trash in the street and the smoke billowed against Mount Kilimanjaro. The taxi I took from town to my hotel was driving on a flat.
As Moses explained on safari, 10% of the population is rich, 50% is normal people with jobs and 50% is very, very poor. "No jobs, no education," he sighed, "and the government is very corrupt." In fact, he went on to explain that many Tanzanians don't even have enough money to open a bank account, the equivalent of approximately 500 U.S. dollars. Instead, many Tanzanians invest any money saved at the end of the month into cement bricks used to built their "dream homes."
These half-finished "dream homes" dot the countryside and villages. Ignorant to plans or designs, these structures look like square Lego houses that a child hapazardly placed together and abandoned. There may be the outline for a door, but no door. A shape of a window, but no glass. The structure of walls, but no roof.
When I asked why so many of these houses remained unfinished, the answer was not necessarily straightforward. Because only the rich have the money to finish a house at once, most build it bit by bit, sometimes over the course of several years. But this is not an easy task, as most have large extended families, and there's always something going on where the money's going out. Someone gets in trouble, someone needs help, someone needs to be fed, the list goes on and on. And yet despite having very little of their own, the Tanzanians take care of their own. And they believe the Lord will do likewise to those that have faith and pray.
For a prayer is like a wish, a dream, a hope fueled by faith. It's the belief that someday things will be better, no matter how bleak the situation may appear. It's trust in something greater than yourself, something you cannot see, touch or taste.
I thought about my own life and how many times I've gotten frustrated and given up. And how the moments that have been my darkest have been those devoid of hope. The Tanzanians may not have the resources or luxuries we have come to know, they may not even have food to put on the table, but they have a strength of spirit to maintain faith in a better future, even if they can't see how that future will unfold. They have the hope and imagination to see the dream home out of the pile of cement bricks. They have their faith.
"So did you pray to see the animals today?" Moses asked us the final day of safari. This time, I just smiled and nodded to myself...