Tuesday, April 04, 2006

in the eye- part two

firstly, thanks for the input my dear blogging friends. i like having real things to talk about once in awhile, it helps me get to know you all a bit better.

i spent some time in Uganda Africa a few years ago. a lot of incredible things happened while i was there, but there were two really significant events that continue to impact me to this day. one of them is completely unrelated. perhaps i'll share that story another time.

the story i'd like to share is about an african woman named, appropriately, joy. she operated a small ( i mean, really tiny) restaurant as a part of the "better living resource center" where we spent a lot of our days. joy was an incredible woman. i'm terrible about guessing ages and such, but i'd place her somewhere in her 50's. she was a few inches taller than me, and many inches wider. with a smile that could change your life.

i spent a night at joy's home, a small two room mud hut with no electricity, running water or plumbing. it was a rough night. joy is raising her granchildren by herself, living off of the small earnings from her restaurant. but she is oh-so content. after a night of not sleeping, being scared of all the enormous cockroaches on the walls and being terrified of going outside to use the hole-in-the-ground toilet...i was real exhausted and not in a great mood. the family woke up bright and early, and set about to do their chores. i stood with joy in the "living room" while she prepared breakfast for everyone. joy and i talked about beauty and self image. i shared with her that many american women struggle with eating disorders, and that we spend much of our lives wishing to look like someone else. joy was completely stunned. she had not heard of eating disorders. as she made breakfast from what little food she had for so many mouths, she said "american women have food to eat, but refuse to eat it?" something about the simplicity of her shock woke me up a bit.

i can remember more than a few times i've tried to will myself to have the self control to be anorexic, or the times i though "well sure, puking up that big mac makes a lot of sense." thinking back to those moments, the countless hours spent in front of my closet full of clothes, wondering why i had "nothing to wear" and pining over the wardrobe and accessories of friends and celebrities, i felt completely shallow. there i was, in a home smaller than my living room, with people who had less food in a week than i have in a day or two, who wear the same clothes day in and day out...that's humbling.

joy and i spent the next two hours talking about beauty- what it means to be beautiful, to feel beautiful, to be a woman. i so desperately wish that i'd had a tape recorder...i begged my memory to hold on to each word she said, so full of wisdom. and of course, time took its toll, and now i've forgotten all but the jist.

but i remember joy telling me that what makes us beautiful is not what we wear or do with our hair, or even necessarily who we are on the inside (although that is of course important). joy said that it's what we do with the time we're given. beauty is caring for children who have lost their parents. beauty is travelling across the world to work with orphans and people with aids. beautiful women give of their time and their means to make life better for the people around them. joy said that not only are these things beautiful, they are life itself.

who said it? "it is in giving that we receive"

i left joy's home a bit more enlightened, very humbled and quite inspired to DO beautiful things. the hard part has come in the challenge of fitting this new and "odd" definition of beauty into a society that calls sacrifice foolish. a society that somehow has me convinced that if i buy THIS hair doodad, all my frizz will be history. THAT lipgloss will give me the confidence and attention i've always wanted.

i used to be braver. i used to be more passionate about living sacrificially, minimally. i think i've lost sight of priorities to a degree. when i came back from working in the orphanage in russia and again when i returned from africa, i gave almost everything i had away. i understood the value of living simply. i was happier with less. i found the time to give.

but as i've grown up, the pursuit of more has eased it's way back into my mindset. the "old" me still lingers, whispering in the background "let it go." i work and attain and label it "security" or "responsibility" and i know it must be, at least some of it.

but have i lost the beauty i'm capable of because i'm trying so hard to manufacture it?


PapaPeters said...

Thanks for a great post,and a great view, and a great question for all women, and men. Do we give up true glory for manufactored processed glory? I remember one reason I saw beauty in you. I remember praying with you and thinking you had a child like soul beautiful, free, and in love with God. You remind us to not lose our child like faith in our adult life, Thanks

tabitha jane said...

does that mean you are going to join my team and walk to raise money to fight breast cancer? that is a very beautiful thing to do!

Mrs. Andrea Wood said...

I have a tough time because I really do want that feeling of security and I want so badly to be one of those people that opens their home and is able to make people comfortable.

I wish that I depended on God more for my security. But my business minded-ness makes me want to see the "bottom line". I am NOT good at just saying that God will provide- I want to know when, where, and how. I've tried to just turn that off but that has not worked so far.

Maybe one day I'll be a good enough person to not want anything but in the mean time, I want to buy clothes that don't make me look fat.

emilykaypeters said...

what a wonderful post breanna. It makes me think what I think is beauty and where my thoughts should lie as I go about each day stuggling to "fit it". I'm having a tough time with that as my bellyl expands with the baby inside.. I'm like, "I just look fat, not pregnate"... but like you said that's not where beauty lies. It's in what we do.

Doug said...

On a trip to Russia a week ago, a girl asked me if I owned a car. When I said yes, her smile widened, and she said, "Cool." It does make one wonder what it means to sing "I surrender all." It adds new meaning to think about losing one's life in order to save it.

BSC said...

I'm struggling with this too. It's hard, and will be a lifelong struggle because it's become human nature.

Josh said...

thanks for your kind words. they carry much more weight than when my mom is calling me to tell me she's telling all of her friends. that is actually quite degrading in some way i think. but when we get thumbs up from complete strangers, it lets us know we've succeeded in making a marginal podcast. so thanks.

found my site through tabitha the braveheart?

Ike Graul said...

fyi - St. Francis of Assissi said it. Great thoughts.

Josh said...

these are really good thoughts. so much of what you shared is what is going on in my head after i've gotten back from india.

its this constant chase for more, more, more. bigger is better. or at least that's what they say.

i've been thinking about this a lot over the past few days. i can't think of a single thing that is better bigger than smaller. as it relates to systems and organization.

i don't know. its so tough because of the way it sneaks up on you. 3 weeks later, i'm back to sucking down cokes and fast food and spending money on me.

quite sad really.