In my first post, I talked about how author Wayne Muller helped to inspire my concept of sabbatical, providing permission or even the requirement for me to “retreat” for a time. Six weeks later, I am re-reading his newest book, A Life of Being, Having and Doing Enough, where he guides us in reflecting on what it could look and feel like to find ongoing spaciousness, ease and sufficiency. This book has been an important companion for my (far from unique) struggle to make peace with what I can or can’t accomplish in a day or in my life, while trusting that I am loved and worthy regardless. I returned to it for a refresher on tools to help me listen for the “next right thing” when faced with the constant small decisions of what to do or not do, as I move closer to the end of my period of going more or less cold turkey from most of my prior commitments. What has spoken to me most so far though, on the second read, is the chapter that reminds us how there are “literally billions of children, families, and communities all over the world for whom the issue of enough is not a meditation but a daily challenge to their life and death.”
Here in Morocco, although the country is well-off compared to many in Africa, the gap between the resources and comfort of tourists like us and locals is still incredibly wide and frequently challenging. Our British host in Chefchaoen described it like this: when he meets and talks to a Moroccan, no matter how much both of them may want to fully see and connect to each other just as human beings, money creates an unavoidable barrier between them. This may become easier to cross after some days, weeks, years of knowing someone and living and working together, but it’s still there. I experienced this feeling to some extent when traveling in Mexico, Honduras and Haiti, but it was mitigated by being part of a group, having local hosts and translators, and participating in service learning. Here, I have less protection from the emotional exposure of having so much more than I need in so many ways while being confronted with others’ lack of enough.
I felt quite a bit different reading this sentence here than I did when I was in the comfort of my own home: “Twenty-five thousand children lose their lives every day for lack of clean drinking water, food or inexpensive medicines costing less than a dollar.” Similar was the description of what sufficiency means for those who are never sure when they wake each day whether they will find enough bread for themselves and their children, or “shade from the punishing midday sun…”As we moved farther into the desert, even into the actual dunes of the Sahara, I began to internalize the precious nature of shade as a resource. I’ve had the thought at times in my life that I am just not cut out for hot weather, but now I wonder whether that may be along the same lines as thinking that I am somehow different than “the poor.” Mr. Muller emphasizes that “no one is an especially blessed person for whom poverty isn’t as bone-weary, soul-crushingly hard for them as it would be for us.” When I see people here walking or riding a bike across what appears to be a vast distance in the middle of nowhere with hardly any shade in site, it has been instructive to consider that they might be just as overwhelmingly hot and tired as I would be.
This chapter presents us with two questions, hand in hand, of how to know when we personally have enough, and how to know what is enough for us “to do, to give, to contribute” in the face of injustice and suffering. Although some of what has driven my over-committed lifestyle has been an unfortunate tendency to attach my self-worth to my contributions, I know another component is regular wrestling with these twin dilemmas of having enough and doing enough. Finally, there is the truth that, “When people in debilitating, soul-crushing poverty do, at the end of the day, feel and know they have enough…[they] will, more than likely, become instantly generous with whatever small portion of anything they may have left over.” Although I am not here long enough and fully immersed enough to know the reality of people’s situations that I encounter, I have indeed seen and experienced an abundance of generosity, kindness, and joy. Many people ask us if this is our first time in Morocco, and hearing yes, share an enthusiastic “Welcome!” with a big a warm smile and a hand over the heart.
Here are some other things I have seen here:
Lots and lots of feral cats and kittens, ranging from skinny to emaciated, and some locals petting and feeding them.
A large majority of women wearing at least a full head covering, often paired with jeans instead of a robe, and sometimes driving a motorbike.
Olive trees, date trees, apricot trees, argan trees, and real oasis palm trees.
Road signs with just an exclamation point on them, which I like to think means, “Prepare to get very excited!”
My time here has also been shadowed by the death of my remarkable and inspiring grandmother, and she is much on my mind and heart as I reflect and write. So, this post is dedicated to Eleanor Elizabeth Saunders Furbush, 3/6/1919 – 5/27/2014, who helped to instill my belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, and who never doubted my own.