My plane landed on time, my luggage was on the carousel, a few of my best friends treated me to a “Welcome Home” dinner and my bed and pillow were more cozy than I had remembered. I fell asleep on Monday night thinking “What more could I ask for?” Thanks to jetlag (and maybe just a little bit of excitement about going to the middle school), my eyes popped open at the crack of dawn on Tuesday morning with no hope of my mind convincing my body that it was WAY too early to get up. So I conceded and happily shifted full into back-to-school mode.
It has been wonderful to reconnect with so many friends and coworkers this week. While I was away, I knew there were some people following my blog, but had no idea that so many of you were keeping up with it! Thank you for being a part of my trip this summer. Thank you for reading and caring about the new friends that I made. Thank you for laughing about my goat gift. Thank you for acknowledging the inequity of what we have here in America. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for welcoming me home. Most of all, thank you for making me feel that I was not alone in this adventure!
So now that my bags are mostly unpacked, the jetlag has been kicked (I slept until 8:00 this morning- Whoo-hoo!) and my craving for cheese has been satiated, I am expecting to really start feeling like I’m home. I look around and see the quiet neighborhood that I love. I get out of my car and I smell the familiar smell of summer. I turn on the radio and can listen to music that I know. I have a conversation with someone and understand not only every word of what they say but also what they mean. But still I feel not quite home.
It’s hard to put my finger on exactly what is missing. Part of it is because Alex, Emmanuel and John aren’t here to smile and wave when I arrive home. A little bit of it is being in public and not being bombarded by tiny hands and high-pitched voices asking me “How are you?” And some of it is seeing so many houses and so few people outside of them. But mostly I feel like I almost but not quite home because my heart has been changed and my eyes have been opened. The people of South Sudan welcomed me with open arms and, unbeknownst to them, showed me what it really feels like to be in community.
I thought that when I came home I would be full of guilt for all of the things we have here in America. I was warned that I might have a hard time going into a grocery store and seeing all that we have to choose from. I expected to feel bad for having electricity 24 hours a day. I thought I would look around and feel sorry about all of the things people in South Sudan do not have. But, instead, I find that I more feel sorry for myself and all of the other people in the US who have given into the desire to own a spacious home, to drive a car of your own, and to have an income to count on. These are all the things that make me independent. I don’t have to worry about having to be outside because there is not enough room in the house. I don’t have to go out and look for public transportation that may not get me to my destination on time. I don’t have to turn to a friend or a neighbor in a time of need. I am self-sufficient… but it sure can be lonely. The life of the people of South Sudan, though very hard, is much more like that of the Fellowship of the Believers than the life I lead here in America.
I wonder how long it will take before this discomfort of returning home goes away. More than that, though, I wonder what I can to do hold onto it. My fear is that I will become so busy with my life here in America that I forget about the great need of people in South Sudan. I wish that I could take this longing for community and tie it like a string around my finger so I cannot forget.