As I prepare physically to board the plane on Wednesday, packing sunscreen, contacts and camera, I am reading as much as I can to prepare mentally and spiritually for my first experience in Africa. As I wrote last week, our focus is to tell the story of how Life in Abundance (L.I.A) provides family for street kids: structure, tutoring, caring and support for those who are alone. As I'm reading the beautiful, powerful "They Poured Fire on Us From the Sky: The true story of three Lost Boys from Sudan," I am reminded of collective cultures and different ways family look around the world.
Recalling his childhood village, Benjamin writes "In Dinka tradition, it is important for children to be together. When it is time to eat, the children would go in a group from house to house eating together. ... The advantage of this tradition is that you got to know all the other boys in a wide area. It encouraged friendliness, building unity between the children's parents. Parents always knew that if a boy wasn't home, someone would bring him home. These were among the good things that I think of when I think of my home. Few of the boys who were with me at that time are still surviving."
I've been reading "The Feminine Mystique" as well (I'm a multi-tasker book reader, never one at a time) and thinking on the dangers of the suburban, separated-from-the-world lifestyle that has been pitched to Americans as the greatest good for decades. In an interview with New York Magazine, Gloria Steinem remembers when "My dearest friend from India, she kept telling me to have a child there because there are all these people to help take care of the child. And I realized so much of the oppression comes from the nuclear family as opposed to the extended household."
I'm thankful for travel, to experience collective societies, my time in Kosovo, and looking forward to a brief glimpse of what life is like in Ethiopia. What life is like for kids who lost their families to AIDS or poverty-induced illnesses, and how the collective society cares for each other. Where L.I.A. comes in to meet the unmet needs, and becomes that extended family.
We fly out of L.A. early Wednesday morning. One week!