The children over the walls and the concertina wire are in school. The chattering of recess which belies the poverty, reminding we who live in Elysium that all people are the same; the same, equality – that wicked word, harsh as a desert sun and unforgiving as the winds that whip around the sands of the Sahara. Equality of outcomes, some like to say; until they perish in quiet desperation in the middle of a bread line; equality of opportunities, except this is nonsensical, for we all are unique and different and special and cursed. Equality of nature – that is the only true equality I suppose; in the image of God Genesis says, though from that image our paths stray as we travel the trails of opportunity and folly.
School, which will leave the little children ill-prepared, in a place of no work, no opportunity – clinging to humanity is difficult when the pangs of hunger twist one’s face, contorting the images. But the children don’t know this; they scream as they chase each other around the dusty fields, climbing a mango tree for the ripened fruit – the mango rains have come again to West Africa, and as always they bring hope amidst the madness. And at the end, hope is what we are left with.
More than three years ago I wrote about a wave – a wave I was to catch, my wars in Africa which were set to extend. A post filled with the anguish of uncertainty and unknowing juxtaposed against the specter of death and destruction. Three years ago, “I cannot help but wonder if my luck will hold. Will the wave support me just a little longer? Or will the tide crashing around transform me into another victim of the madness – like so many I have known?”
But the wave held. Yes, the wave held – and as I silently slide from its funnel and let the power surge over me, I look up to see the rainbow above which represents that most ancient of promises, and I am happy. Oh, it has not been easy; riding this wave. There have been bumps and twists, I have slipped on more than one occasion to find my footing thanks only to a kindly hand in a moment of darkness. But the wave held – and as I see it power off in front of me, leaving me on the board seated in the sun with the water lapping gently against my knees I can only feel grateful. The wave held – and there is nothing more to say.
To be sure, the wars go on. Was this my last war in Africa? Only time will tell; did I make any difference? Perhaps when I reach the pearly gates St. Peter will have a list of my accounts. Friends I have made and trophies for my wall secured; glory sought and achieved through some victories and some valiant fights, futile perhaps but nevertheless noble. I do know that six years of war in Africa has left its mark; it makes us humble, more sure of ourselves but also less sure of the world around us and the confidence we have that we too will be forever-protected. More wary at those who say that safety requires no effort; that bad ideas demand no challenge.
My little boy is African – though he is not, of course. His Africa was so different than those of the little voices that scream in peals of joy from the mango trees. But Africa it was, too, at the end – it is what he knows and will forever be a part of him; how to account for that?
And to the future and what it holds?… only God or fate control – and that is OK. As for me, today, I can only be thankful that the wave held.