A Safer World
Affirmation: The world is safer than we believe it to be.
She didn’t phrase the affirmation in the positive, so I had to re-wright it. She actually said, “The world is not as dangerous as we imagine it to be.” She was backpacking through So. Africa. She was crossing the border from Zimbabwe into Botswana. She was all alone, no travel buddy along and she would be spending the night in a camp site, somewhere about which she knew very little. “Will you be in a tent?” I asked. She didn’t know. She appeared to be in her early thirties and while I was dressed to be sure the mosquitos didn’t find a free square inch on me, she was in a tank top and shorts. Her name was Anya. I told her she was one of my newest heroines. I have many but she was definitely the latest and I was so pleased to meet her, to share a little time with her and to learn from her. “The world is not as dangerous as we imagine it to be.” I felt like someone had opened a door in a stuffy, small room, Yes, I was in So. Africa too. I had only been here a few days when we were traveled to Chobe to cruise the river and ride through the jungle to see lions and giraffes and elephants and whatever other exotic creatures chose to show themselves. I, however was with a buddy, Susan Auman and we had hired a guide to help facilitate the transfer across the border. I was in awe of Anya.
This was towards the end of our trip.
It can be hard to imagine the world as safe. The news is so gruesome most days. It is the focus of the media and it leaves many feeling anxious and afraid. Fear can be useful. We are genetically wired to use fear as a warning system but when we always are in a “flight or fight” response, it becomes debilitating, cortisol levels rise and our systems are overloaded.
Susan and I had already visited Cairo. We had seen the pyramids, the Sphinx and visited mosques and several holy sites where the Holy Family had lived, according to the legends told. We had also sailed the Nile and visited temples as old as three thousand plus years old. (We had used some toilets that we were sure were just as old. Toilette paper was handed out by the sheet and that only with the payment of a dollar or more.) We had danced and hiked and rode in a hot air balloon over the desert but I still wasn’t sure if the world was more or less dangerous than I imagined but I was beginning to see the world differently, more like Anya.
We were traveling during Lent and finishing our Egypt segment at the end of Holy Week. Egypt is 80 percent Muslim and I was feeling very unsure about our journey. I always wear a small cross necklace and I just wasn’t sure how advisable that was. I took the cross off for a few days but I felt very uncomfortable without it and so, I put it back on. I once read a story about a man who decided to wear a large (I don’t know how large.) wooden cross around his neck for Lent. He was fairly sure people would react to his new pendant, he just didn’t know how they would react. Imagine his surprise when no one reacted at all. His decision to wear the cross was a very brave statement. The only thing that mattered was how it made him feel. That’s how I felt about wearing my little necklace. The good news is no one reacted to it, positively or negatively but it was very important to me to openly claim my faith. I felt very brave.
So. Africa was a very different environment than Egypt. I fell in love with the people. We arrived and were eventually met by Sindy. He was definitely one of the highlights of our travel. Actually, for me, meeting the people wherever we went was the most fun. Whoever we met, we were greeted warmly and courteously. Susan and I did always present with a smile and I think that’s a universal language. Very seldom was there not a response in kind.
We had both prayed that God would send his angels ahead to pave the path with grace, ease, compassion and love and I must say, we were in awe of how well our travels went. When met by our last tour representative we knew our prayers had definitely been answered. His name was Blessing. The names of the people we met in Victoria Falls were inspiring. One of our waiters was named Tadiwa. He told us it meant, “We are loved.” I asked him if it were true and he said, “yes” he was loved. Sindy’s wife’s name is Simangaliso. Her name means, “Great wonder” and according to Sindy, she is.
Sindy had stories galore for us. His enthusiasm for the falls was contagious. As we walked the path to the Danger Point and the Devil’s Pool, he quoted Livingston. “These are signs so wonderful that the angels must have gazed upon them in their flight.” As we were leaving, this unassuming, gentle man he told us one last tale about being invited to speak in 2015 at the “Be the Change Conference” in Atlanta, GA. It was his first time to fly and when he arrived, he spoke to five thousand people about helping women develop their own businesses because they are the mothers who nurture our future.
The quality of the So. African people I found most striking was how they looked you right in the eye. When you asked them how they were, they would always smile and engage you in a way that I found to be endearing and unusual.
“The world is not as dangerous a place as we imagine it to be.” I am so grateful to my friend, Susan, for inviting me to join her on this pilgrimage. Her desire to see and experience the world and her willingness to share it with me, dragged me out of fear and into love. It’s not the first time she has led me this way. It was she who led me to walk the Camino in 2017. I can fall into fear very easily but she reminds me that “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.” We said our prayers and then stepped out into a whole new world. She would tell me periodically that “You knew you weren’t in Kansas any longer,” when you had warthogs on the front lawn, elephants crossing the road, baboons climbing out of inn windows and monkeys waiting to steal your breakfast. We were in a different world and I had conquered my fears, again. It’s a gift I gave myself. It’s keeping me excited and enthusiastic about life, about the future, about our future. It’s a reminder of a phrase I heard while at the Haden Institute, “God loves me exactly as I am but She loves me too much to leave me there.” Thank you, God! Thank you, Susan.