pick a star on the dark horizon

I adore that song.

First, I want to add an addendum to my thoughts about this book. While I did not enjoy it, I do think that there are some valid points about our views of other cultures, even to this day.

My sister and I discussed this when we were in Uganda, how hard it was not to think of the women who live half-naked (to our eyes) in muddy huts, proud of their children’s western clothes even if they are filthy and worn backwards, as if their very existence is childish. It is easy, in our Western mindset, to see them as needing our guidance, our glorious generous help to bring them into a new understanding of life through our clean and more organized (to our understanding) systems.

It is a dangerous approach, anthropologically and otherwise. There is no use condescending to a culture you are trying to minister to. Just because you don’t understand the way they do things doesn’t mean there’s no rhyme or reason. Just because the women leave their young children to watch their younger children for hours of the day while they work in the fields or go to market does not mean they do not love their offspring as much as we love our pampered, overprotected little ones.

I remember this hitting me most clearly the day after a tribe from neighboring Kenya had raided a nearby village, taking almost all the cows and killing a few people. The next morning, we visited one of the widows, whose little shepherd boy son was also missing since the attack. I was nauseous and feverish. As we walked, I remember the horizon moving in and out, and all I wanted to do when we reached the village was sit down on something that wasn’t moving. My wish was granted.

The family of the widow ushered us into her little mud hut, through a tiny clausterphobic door nearly too small for our substantial western behinds. Once inside, the hut was full. Of us, relatively clean from our cold showers the day before, and the widow and her friends, along with a few small children, all of whom smelled much like the mud hut, of dung and sweat and urine.

I remember sitting very still, hoping very much that I would fit back out of the door and trying not to move my stomach at all. The widow sat before us (much as the man’s other widows probably sat, in other little villages in the area) and cried. Then she would calm, talking in a rapid overflow of Karamajong, then lapsing again into tears, worried about her little boy and what they will do without him.

I had seen this grief before, on another face, far far away. I had heard concerns, different but the same, on the lips of another mother, unsure of the shape of her family without the presence of a little one. Sorrow looked the same, no matter where you were, no matter what language you spoke.

I found it much easier to see them for people, made in the Lord’s image, an identity completely separate from the language they speak, the clothes they wear (or don’t wear) and the cleanliness of their living conditions.

This is just what I was thinking, a few days after finishing the book.

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2 thoughts on “pick a star on the dark horizon

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