Taxis……not Cabs!!

I have been driving in taxis for a long period of time and I love it. Back home, taking the taxi is not always the most pleasant experience but it was still good. I am taking taxis here too and its not always a pleasant experience either; albeit safer, and well organized. Funny how that works. Disclaimer: I am comparing a rural taxi experience in a developing country with a city taxi experience in a developed country.

Back home, a taxi can be a source of entertainment, as you are almost never alone for a ride. And so invariably stories and gossip abound, and we all like a good gossip although we cuss and whine about the number of us in a car. When I think back to taxis when I started high school, I considered the recent past a luxury ride. The further back I reflect the more I realize how much God was in those cars with us back then.

As I write this, I consider that these taxi drivers get a lot of free education each day! I am also thinking they must be very tired at the end of a work day as it takes a lot to solicit passengers each trip, ply the same route many times each day, dodge potholes, road bumps and traffic police, maneuver your car in the tight spaces in taxi parks, operate a ‘robot’ taxi. Very tired but hardly bored.

Contrast this to taxis here, highly regulated although just as competitive. Well dressed men who wait on a call or wait their turn wherever they are parked. Almost never the same route and I assume fewer trips per day, one or two passengers at a time, strict fare rules, electronic payment devices, GPS systems and ridesharing competition. I think of this and think, how boring it is to be a taxi driver in the developed world. Very boring but way less tiring.

I think of my friends home who are taxi operators- very cheerful and colourful characters. Always agitating for a fare increase, demonstrating about bad roads, complaining about the high costs of operations, cussing out the incumbent government or the opposition, seeking out a new ‘wife’, all knowing of everything that is going on.  A lot of camaraderie with their fellow colleagues……and they remain in the job for years on years and new ones keep joining the fray. I don’t think its so bad after all……although some will be quick to tell me its the economy….stupid.

I think of the taxi drivers I have met here. The Ethiopian who was jovial and happy with his thick English Accent, the Pakistani Muslim who was obviously upset about the legalization of marijuana, the Iranian who was true to his word, the Seikh who was so patient I was in awe, the Caucasian who was weeping about the state of the contemporary governments……and the majority who prefer to remain silent. A very different sphere of operation, but it may just be the economy too.

What can I say? There are some differences but not that many and quite a few men seem to make a decent living this way. I have had only one female taxi driver over the years…..I wonder why???? I have taken a taxi in NYC, Barbados, London and despite all these experiences, I think I love my taxis back home the most!!!

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The Good Samaritan

Luke 10 v 25-37 is a familiar story. I have heard it enough times to be able to repeat it verbatim, and convince myself that I definitely would be the Good Samaritan. I also harshly judge the Priest and Levite. Which means, that that person is more than likely the deluded version of who I am, or who I am supposed to be. Suffice to say, this does not mean there are no more ‘Good Samaritans’, the world abounds with them, but the question I have been asking myself is……Am I one?

The Victim

A male……..so if you lived in my culture and you see a male hurt on a lonely road would you stop to help? What if you lived elsewhere, where there are ethnic and racial tensions- would you be concerned about a male lying on the road? He was robbed- by whom? And where were these robbers? Will we be robbed too? Or Is this a scam? It would take a lot of grace and willpower to stop and help this person……..because a lot of thoughts will fill our minds.

The Priest and Levite

Our first response is judgment. Two church people, how could they? I was led to think of this. Why would they just pass like that? Who was this man? Was he of their clan, if not was it illegal to interact with him? Were they late for an appointment? Were they really just cold and uncaring, prejudiced in some way? How often are we too busy to care too? How often do we think it’s someone else’s responsibility to care, like the Emergency workers or the Police?

The Samaritan

He cared, he stopped and he did more. He cleaned him, bandaged him, carried him to a place of safety, paid for his accommodation and food, stayed with him. He also made him feel seen, made him feel he mattered. We say, well he must have been rich. But do we know that? Do we always need cash to care? We say well he was discriminated against, so he knew what it meant to be disregarded. Well true, and don’t we all know what that is like? And have we ever wondered if he was a doctor just happening to pass by? Or where was he going? Was he missing some important meeting or appointment while he attended to this male? How often did he pass this way? Was this a familiar scene for him?

Although the above are all important considerations, what it comes down to-  is, he loved his neighbour. We get many opportunities each day to do likewise and they never show up at convenient times. Maybe we cant do everything he did but certainly, there are a lot of ways to care and be kind. We can do whatever we can……Just do it!!!

So here’s to the original Good Samaritan, and all the other ones out there- current and aspiring.

 

How do I live without you?

Live is evil spelt backwards. The precise moment I recognized this, I also came to accept that evil coexists with life. And this is not to give credence or prominence to it, but just for us to reflect on what Jesus told us……..”in this world you will have tribulations……”

One of the things that bring us immense tribulation is grief. Loss of someone and something we love is both terrifying to contemplate and difficult to deal with. We grieve many times in our life over and over for varying things, we grief what we didn’t get and some of the things we get too……. but either way grief must never be suppressed. Grief when aligned with shame however, breeds just that.

My eyes were always wide shut before Andrew’s case (not his real name. ) It wasn’t the first time I heard of a child losing their mom, but it was the first time I had ever seen a child (and a boy none the less) openly grieve like that. It broke my heart about ten times over, and it was my awakening. Only a broken heart can do that. It showed me so many things. I am almost ashamed to say that before this I never contemplated what it meant to lose a parent, I didn’t think about grief beyond the funeral day. But from this one experience, I learnt:

1. Kids take their cues from us, and if we dismiss and behave as if grieving and crying especially, are signs of weakness or are for sissies then they will believe it too.

2. Any culture that revers rage and anger and tells us that’s where our strengths are, then grief and mourning was bound to become a bad words in that milieu.

3. I could do something to help, anything. When people cry out for help we should find a way to help. And also when they don’t cry out for help, sometimes it’s not because they don’t need help.

4. I want to start my own place where I can provide solace, comfort and healing for growing kids. An idea was born, I knew the ‘why’ but the what and how are still conceptions.

5. It serves us well to own, acknowledge, welcome pain rather than downplay it. I have seen how Andrew has progressed just from been open and vocal about his feelings….

I started reading everything I could about grief and grief management and I started researching how this was applied practically. Psyschologists and counselors have identified the Three P’s of grief…….personalization, pervasiveness, and permanence. I thought to myself this along with the well know stages of grief are enough to blow an adult’s mind, never mind a kid. Someone has to unpack these things for them and take them through the wilderness. I myself am not even qualified to do that, I don’t even know where to begin but that doesn’t mean I don’t have some skills that can be useful.

Since Andrew, the stories have only grown in number. My cousins two sons- and their case is especially sad because they are acting up, I mean really acting up. I worry about the consequences of having no one understand what is happening and I also worry about there being no intervention for them. The side effects will be felt, not only by them but also by their families, the community and country. We have to make the connection………

There are also other cases. The nine year old daughter of a former student of mine, teenagers, and the myriad others who we as adults just expect to toughen up, suck it up, forget and move on. Unfortunately that’s not how it works……pain not healed is only transferred. And this is not to say that those who access help ever forget totally. They don’t, they are only able to manage the feelings in a healthy way when they arise, as they inevitably will. Kids who have lost loved ones can become wholesome healthy adults but it’s not automatic, convenient or easy. There needs to be a lot intervention and a lot of love, they need to know that the love lost is about losing a piece of themselves, but even so that this can be transformed into something positive. It is a gift and it’s part of our shared humanity. They need to know that they are loved by others……….sometimes that’s all they, need just the knowledge that they are still loved, that someone cares.

Eventually all of us will experience loss…….but what will we do with it? Life is like that, it rubs us up and churns us and forces us to either adapt or die. The funny this is, adapting is just as natural as dying. Another thing is dealing with grief is not trying your best to make them forget, just as I don’t believe forgiveness equates to forgetting…..it’s so much more. Memories must be honoured and treasured, that’s healthy.

I still have both parents alive and for that I am grateful, and I am blessed to never experience major trauma yet I still carry with me to adulthood a lot of brokenness and pain from childhood. Children are fragile and are like sponge. It’s the adults job to train them and we have to train them about difficult and intangible things too. Unfortunately a lot of caregivers or guardians are themselves too immersed in their grief to properly process and help these vulnerable ones during this time. That’s one of the reasons it takes a village. Then there are the other issues, do boys grieve differently from girls? How long will it take to move from one stage to the next? Is there a one size fits all panacea?

What is Language?

I have been weeping for language.

Texting, emojis, and social media have finished its massacre.  I feel like I am fighting a losing battle…….but fight on, I will. I sometimes wonder if this is only happening to the English Language, I guess not.

There is something I would like to call ‘the un-codified power of language’. I am first to admit that  I have always taken for granted, speaking,hearing and writing; but not any more, not after I started wondering exactly how you teach a baby, or a young child your own language…..and I know it’s not by osmosis. Is it easier to teach the young a new language? This is something that boggles my mind, so I will leave that alone.

The next thing is, I am from an English speaking, patois-dialect-pervasive country which has various shades and forms of the latter-named spoken dialect. Every country has a unique ‘mother tongue’ or perhaps a powerful counter language, much like a sub-culture. Everyone in Jamdown can identify your ‘nativity’ from your speech…….and don’t mention when you leave the Rock, you might as well have a sign on your forehead. I suspect many can identify with that.

Many have oft remarked about a ‘face’ and then become totally disappointed when they hear the speech and vice versa. I have also listened to podcasts with speakers who have a perfect command of the English Language and right away I associate a ‘face’ to the voice. I have done the same thing with handwriting. Language has been used to break down and build barriers up……. I would love to ask skilled terrorist negotiators about the power of the human voice….

We hear someone speak, read newspaper articles and Face book posts, watch interviews and we do mental assignments right away……., “oh they got it all together, or what a tyrant, or what a messy life”. Maybe, maybe not!!! And have you ever heard your accent change to match your environment? And when you see certain people is it an automatic adjustment in your speech, and on a phone call do you have a phone voice? For all of us, it seems we are all different until we open our mouths……

These Days……

These days…….I am realizing I didn’t consider myself a black woman until I lived here. This may have been due to the fact that back home I was considered ‘brown’ and with education, I acquired a privilege I didn’t know I had. Privilege is blind.

These days……… My perspectives and opinions and even mode of dress have changed and many things I now care about didn’t mean squat to me before. I know for sure that had I been home I wouldn’t have given much of these things more than a passing thought, certainly not motivated to act or speak out. God is a God of wisdom.

I recently had conversation with a fellow J’can who told me that I was not away long enough to stop saying “I want to go back home”. He is right about me missing home and wanting to go back, but I hope he is wrong too. I want to do it on my terms, I want the best of both worlds. I know we don’t always get what we want but still, I want what I want. Hearing of people who move back to their homes actually makes me feel sane. Almost like I am not crazy for having the desire to go back. I cannot own here as my own, this is not home, my home for now but not home. I friend of mine went to Jamaica on vacation recently and I cannot tell you how much I prayed for her to be safe and for her to have the best time ever. I wanted my country to look good, feel good, be good- as I know it is.

These days…….I am ridding myself of many of the stereotypes I had before moving here. Thank God. I am ashamed of some of the ones I had. Enough said. I am learning that humans are humans…..in need of validation, deserving of their dignity…..often refuses to be vulnerable, perennially searches for happiness and tries to dodge pain. At our core, we are alike.

These days…….I am thinking about what I love here- the transportation system, the family values, the health care, the walking trails and emphasis on the outdoors, parks, shopping malls, civic pride, library memberships, order and cleanliness. But at the same time what I am missing from home-hearing raindrops on my roof, seeing the glow of the full moon, smelling the dirt after it rains, being apart of the gossip and rumor mill, good food, taxi stands, funerals, sitting by the window at 3T’s, knowing who my Neighbour is, getting a good laugh from my cousins, hearing a rooster crow etc. And it struck me that we are a multiplicity of likes and dislikes, truths and contradictions, rights and wrongs, all mixed up in one- never any one thing. I must value that which can be measured and that which cannot be measured.

These days……..my vocabulary has changed. I now use words like, ‘awesome, gorgeous, admirable, fantastic, great’- quite frequently, liberally, sincerely and readily. Not only because of cultural norms but also because I really see the world that way. I find myself like the colour yellow……now this one is weird. I want to think its because I value the sunshine so much, or maybe its because so many yellow blooms are around.

I went on a work tour recently and as I listened to the commentary about city & urban planning, gentrification etc, I couldnt help but wonder what makes a country developing vs developed. When I remember how there were plans afoot to mine the Cockpit Country, I wonder if a developer or miner could be so presumptuous to even consider mining areas of the Rockies🤔. When I hear of setbacks, municipal reserves, environmental reserves, wetlands and storm ponds……I have no doubt these things exist at home too……I also think about the fact that even with all these tight and strict rules, houses still are built the wrong way and in the wrong places.

These days……I wonder if handwriting is becoming obsolete. When was the last time you wrote something on paper. I am hearing that cursive writing is no longer in the grade 1-4 curriculum. But as my friend asked, is that why we so now value handwritten letters and memos? And with all the various social media ways of communicating, is that why so much is written about the benefits of face to face and verbal conversations? The more we go forward the more we see the benefit of what we are leaving behind, which makes me wonder why we feel progress means we ditch what worked before?🤷🏻‍♀️

Joy inspite of……….

For a long time I believed joy, mirth, happiness and laughter etc. were synonyms and states of entitlement. In my mind, we deserved to experience them all and all the time; until a professor made it clear to us one day in class that no one promised us these things in life. It was a light bulb moment for me, although it took me years to reach the place where I could accept it, to be a fact of life. I just couldn’t swallow the bitter pill that pain and suffering, disappointments, grief etc were very present, impartial and common ways of life. I felt that these were based on cause and effect much the same way Job’s three friends chose to see his plight. I saw these latter states of existence as inconvenient truths, which could be avoided if we played our cards right. How wrong I was.

These days it’s not just that so many of us and especially the young do not believe or conceive (not sure which) these things……but that we do not seem to be equipped for a life that will bite. A life that cares not who you are, how special and unique you feel, how religious you are, or how beautiful, smart, kind etc you perceive yourself.

Some things that happen still puzzle me and the human I am still tries to figure them out. But I also know more now to know that we grow so much more, when we are uncomfortable and that God, my Sovereign Deity has way more wisdom than a finite human being. I must trust, even through the valley of the shadow of death. He doesn’t need to give us explanations. At this point I will recommend Kate Bowler’s book …’Everything happens for a reason, and other lies I told myself”.

I am nervous, very nervous about how we view life and ourselves because life does teach these lessons sooner and later, and I am seeing some crises emerging that keeps me up at nights….higher suicide rates, an opioid crisis, alcoholism, higher rates of loneliness and broken relationships….Sigh. But that is not my topic for today, I want to focus on Joy. I have written about success and what makes me happy, but what about joy? Joy, that three letter word that is so elusive.

                                               I feel joy when…..

  1. I walk across a street with trees interwoven at their peak….my mind immediately reflects on Holland Bamboo in Jamaica. How often do we miss these sparks of beauty because we really don’t take the time or because we tend to devalue things that are normal, ordinary and small? Much like I did not learn to appreciate sunshine until I lived through winters. I found myself giving thanks for the sunshine and praying for the sun.IMG_E1872
  2. I am waiting to see my mom or waiting for her daily calls, wondering where our conversation will go.
  3. I am strolling to the bus station and my mind goes all other the place, including to prayer.
  4. Spring approaches. I love to watch the trees awaken from the hibernation of winter. Each morning there is something new to see. I cannot believe sometimes that I am enjoying this when I had this year round back home and took it for granted. Sigh. I also find comfort in the fact that the trees do not die despite the ravage and rampage of winter……..they are resilient. Kind of reminds me that we are too.
  5. I am in any conversation- verbal/written, in person or not; meeting in every group setting- be it lunch prep, life group, church, staff meeting, lunch dates, Saturday morning walks, at the mall or the supermarket.
  6. I am anticipating a meal or having a meal- oxtail, stew peas and even fish that I didn’t like at all back home all are very appealing.
  7. Waiting to receive a gift or a package……..especially from my step mom.
  8. I am counting the days to a vacation…..the actual vacation maybe not as much.
  9. I read papyrus cards, or searching for a meaningful gift for someone. I love gift shops and book stores for this.
  10. I forgive or are forgiven.
  11. Giving some advice that touches a nerve……
  12. In my quiet times.
  13. I am watching water roll off leaves. I remember back home the smell after a heavy shower of rain and how everything looked cleaner. Trees and leaves glistened, the hills were greener and grass bowed in salute, even the dirt had a distinctly different smell. But my absolute favourite thing was to look for the cobwebs in the thistles…..somehow I know the spiders did not weave that after the rains fell
  14. Listening to music (when I feel like it), listening to a podcast or YouTube videos and people watching (from the office window).
  15. From any expression of endearment, getting a call or a message which shows someone is thinking about me, being told something positive about myself especially that which you were not anticipating or expecting.
  16. I give the benefit of the doubt, when I do not resort to the worst possible scenario……and get to a state of ‘okay’ in a world in which I do most things alone.
  17. As I learn how to take the good and the bad, and still know God is in control. Learning that life is brutiful is a beautiful thing. I find myself feeling peace in the most difficult times……which gives me more peace. Its a hard concept to explain….peace in the second derivative lets say.
  18. I am in community and especially at church, although some days I just want to curl up in a corner and not be in community. Those are the days when people and fellow faith sojourners too, kick my butt. But then there are other days, those days when I get a kick out of community. When there is encouragement, validation, feeding off each other, sharing, hugs, laughter etc. And that’s why I risk being in community, because I know I cannot live without these things. And that’s when I marvel at the wisdom of God. He knows we cannot practice faith in a solitary space….so church attendance is an integral part of the whole, of being a Christian.
  19. I hear bird’s chirping, really loudly above the din of cars and buses, cell phones, machines and the many thoughts in my head. I started to wonder if I am losing my sense of wonder. Birds play one of my favourite sounds, but in this land of busyness I find I have to be paying attention, really searching for them to hear them albeit they are ubiquitous. I love to watch them too…..not a care in the world it seems.

One of my favourite songs, is Lee Ann Womack’s ……”I hope you dance….”. The above things are my soul dance, my love dance and when I have them I literally feel joy swelling up in me.