We titled our 2018 Bridge Walk campaign “Celebrate Courage, Generosity and Family.” Our celebration on the property today revealed so many more qualities to celebrate. This truly is a remarkable group of people and there are no words to describe what makes them so special. But we are going to try.
Bridge Walk Kantolomba
Celebrate sympathetic joy
Sympathetic joy is unselfish joy or joy at the good fortune of others. Conditioned mind tends to be comparative and note differences. But when we live from presence, we are only aware of our similarities, of the authentic nature we share. What happens to any one of us, happens to all of us.
Susan, who is part of the Girls Program, has been confined to a wheel chair for most of her life. Her chair, we discovered yesterday, had seen better days. So today we drove down to a chemist shop and picked up a brand-new wheelchair for her. When the chair was brought out of the car, a spontaneous cheer went up from the crowd as they realized what was happening. As the cheer faded the crowd broke into a song. Someone they loved was receiving a gift and every single person was elated at her good fortune. It was as if they were personally receiving the same gift. Wheelchairs or new babies, funerals or bad luck, this community operates more as a collective “we” that smiles and cries as one.
Susan needs some new wheels.
Theresa picks up the new wheels.
Peter unveils the new wheelchair to a delighted crowd.
Susan is deeply grateful.
This community embodies the saying, “Do more than belong, participate.” If we are listening to voices, we often feel like we don’t have “a place in the family of things.” Usually this means we hang around the sidelines and wait to be invited to take part in what we are already part of. Not so in Kantolomba!
A building collapsed, opening up a good-sized piece of the property and Jen saw the possibility of a soccer field in that space. By the time we got to the property, the team had already started, picks, hoes, shovels, buckets and rakes fully employed. Everyone just pitched in. This was theirs to do. Everyone had a part to play. Everyone took turns. There was always a role to claim. It was back breaking work but they approached it with such a joyful willingness to participate! And by lunch, we had raked and leveled almost half of the field.
The crew is already hard at work.
Leveling the field
Joining in the fun
It’s almost done. Many hands make light work.
We don’t have uniforms in our Sangha… or do we? If you come on retreat, you would think we do! Chitenge pants and Bridge Walk t-shirts. Every Bridge Walk celebration has resulted in a beautifully designed t-shirt being added to our wardrobes. Each time we wear one of these shirts we are signaling that we are Sangha, family, the group of people who walk together, supporting each other and sharing our spiritual journey.
We knew we had to have t-shirts for our Kantolomba Sangha celebration. Four huge boxes of shirts made their way to Africa this year. All the shirts over the years that did not get mailed or picked up by previous Bridge Walk participants are now proudly being modeled by Living Compassion Kantolomba. Everyone was so excited to pick out their shirt (black was the color of choice!). With t-shirt donned it was time to pose for your photo. We took hundreds of pictures with each member of the co-operative and girls team. Everyone wanted a “family portrait”!
Unpacking the shirts
Take your pick
Showing off their new togs
Team Bridge Walk
If you’re family, you tend to reciprocate with a gift in kind. And Theresa had a special surprise for us. The team sent out for some beautiful chitenge, found a tailor renowned for her handiwork, and had some gorgeous outfits made for us. In a special ritual that included dancing and singing, each of us was “dressed” in our finery. And in this exchange of gifts of clothing, we deepened the bonds of family and friendship. As Rumi said, “We stepped out of the circle of time and stepped into the circle of love.”
just my color
The girls in all their finery
Celebrate Living Joyfully
Living Compassion is an oasis in a desert of grinding poverty. At the end of the day, our co-operative members go home to circumstances that no human being should live in. Like every slum, Kantolomba has mountains of garbage, crumbling buildings, standing sewage, kids playing in mud and dirt, drunken men collapsed on benches, prematurely aged women with young babies slung on their backs washing clothes in fetid water.
But the hardships and challenges that our team faces in their daily lives don’t stop them from living joyfully. The compound is filled with laughter and singing. There is always time to share a joke. After a hard day’s work, it’s important to sit down under the shade of a tree and get current on the news. If there is a football game in process, you have to have your turn. If there is a new baby to welcome, you have to stop to admire her perfect feet. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have running water, you still show up in a clean uniform. Whatever is going on, you are there for the moment, fully engaged, here to do your part, wholeheartedly, playfully and joyfully. It’s truly an inspiring expression of “not what, but how.”
Join the game.
Hugs are wholehearted.
Spend time with friends.
Let’s have fun.
Time to dance
Life has rhythm.
“Courage is being afraid but doing it anyway.” Whoever wrote that could have had this community in mind. Josephine demonstrated this version of courage when she approached Cheri, all those years ago, to plead her case for our investment in her children. Theresa demonstrated this courage when she stepped into the role of project coordinator, even though she had no education or training for the role. Each co-operative member demonstrates this courage as she or he chooses this life of service, showing up every day to teach, cook, or clean, rather than to succumb to their challenging circumstances.
And today, Esther demonstrated the same courage by standing up in front of her peers, her teachers, her mentors and her community to read a letter of gratitude--in English--for all the support she and her classmates in the Girls Program had received.
Esther steps up.
As we reflect on the day, we realize that what we are really celebrating is the transformation that can happen in a community when passion, perseverance and patience meet courage, generosity and commitment.
A day of Celebration
Celebrating new life
Celebrating all occasions