(Lisa moved in closer as I took a photograph of her. It's all out of focus except her earlobe now, but I still love this photograph)
I must admit that I helped the team very little the days they built the soup kitchen for Concordia Methodist Church on top of the hill in Knysna, South Africa. Instead, I played with Lisa.
She is a sweet girl, eager for me to hold her and hug her. Many people asked if she was my daughter, which I loved. The maternal being in me has been dormant, and I’ve never desired to be a mom anytime in the near future. I shocked myself with my instinct to be with her. We fit each other. She did not speak much, but she smiled and laughed and played. She clenched my hand as we prayed. And she listened as I talked, talked, talked in English. She would nod her head in agreement or sometimes giggle and shake her head furiously to inform me that I was asking a silly, silly question. She cried as we said goodbye at the end of the day. And she ran to me with an incredible glow when we saw each other again.
Lisa lives on the hill where she and the other Xhosa-speaking South Africans can look down upon their gorgeous town, which really doesn’t belong to them at all. They have the most beautiful view of Knysna, overlooking the Knysna Lagoon and the Indian Ocean. They see the gorgeous homes on Leisure Isle where the British, U.S., Australian citizens and people from other wealthy countries in the world own vacation homes they occupy a few months of the year. They see the extravagant homes and beautiful living of the white South Africans. They see this from their homes, which look like mere shacks, have no heat and often no running water or electricity.
The so-called 3rd and 1st worlds co-existing . . . sadly, the people on the hill always had to acknowledge what was down below. The people below could live life without ever looking up.
I met a young lady named Noxee who showed me her home on the hill, and she said, “We have such a beautiful view! I love it!” She didn’t complain about the disparity. Some children asked me to climb higher on a hill with them because they wanted to show me their great view. They didn’t mention the amazing homes below or the boats lining the lagoon. They showed me the ocean and marveled at its beauty.
As I remember Lisa I wish for her to go to school, grow in her dreams and get down off the hill. I want her to have the opportunities of her country that all the rich white kids have. I want her to keep the spirit of the hill, though, as she captures these other things. It is a spirit of love. It is a spirit I love.
This felt like home. This made sense to me. It helped me see the people from whom I come . . . and they are loving, giving, proud people. Passionate, musical, moving people. Hopeful, strong, persevering people. People who lean on hope in the midst of obvious trials. People, like Noxee, who appreciate their beautiful view instead of envying other’s possessions. I am very proud to come from Africa. From my journal entry 5 June 2005 after my first day on the hill
(Noxee and me)