There's new ghosts in town.
They're with me when I fill up my car with diesel. They're with me when I take my son to school, as I unpack the dishwasher, when I check the trouser pockets before a laundry wash.
They just stand there, watching.
A week ago I had a de-brief with Richenda and Joy from World Vision. I'm struggling because I saw the worst poverty the world has to offer. You can never un-know something. At first I was chatty and laughing. About different things .. my kids, life, blogging. Then Richenda asks,
"Ok so Eden .. how are you? How are you really?"
They had me on speaker phone and I pictured my sobs echoing in their boardroom. I could hardly even get my questions out. I knew there was nothing they could do for me, really. But they understood. They are good women. All I had were wicked questions. Weird questions.
The more I think about Africa, the more I try to grasp the civilisation of mankind as we know it. The intrinsic way that I see the world is forever coloured by my own non-colour ... I'm too white to be objective about race.
In 1985, Sting hoped the Russians loved their children too. In 2012, I hoped that the Africans loved theirs.
"Do you think .. that the mothers love their children just as much as we love ours?"
They have so many children, see. They keep having them! How easy of us to say, Africans, stop having so many children. You cannot look after the ones you already have! When I was over there, I wondered where the dead children go. Do they get buried? Cremated? Do African parents ever get used to their children dying? Someone told me that's part of the reason why they have so many. Because they know that some will die.
The most wicked maths in the world.
Are black people real people? Are white people better than black people? Reverse it. Imagine if the African population watched their fancy flat screens in their fancy houses. Growing annoyed and jaded at the white people always hungry, always on the news, ribcages showing. Would the black people wonder if the white people were as smart as them?
Two African boys are in a village. Take one, and educate him in the west. Fill him with colourful and rich experiences. Put him back into the African village as a man. Stand him next to his counterpart. Who is better? Aren't they both the same? Are we not all born with the same potential, the same spark .. as the next person?
I wept so hard during my de-brief that I made Richenda and Joy weep as well. I didn't know what to make of what I saw. Still don't. Questions lead to more questions. Why does poverty exist? Deeply entrenched cultural beliefs. Unforgiving geography. Climate change. Corrupt politicians. All of this. More of this.
So there's these new ghosts, following me around, everywhere I go. That's ok .. I asked for it. I went on the Africa trip and I sought them out and I held them close, in my heart. May as well keep living my life as big as I always have. The new ghosts are African mothers holding their babies, African men with nothing to do but pray, malnourished African children, playing in the dirt.
They watched me be an idiot on the beach last weekend, and they came with me into the movies. They were there as I spooned my husband, laughed with my sisters, visited my stepfather in hospital. They heard me tell Dave that all I wanted for Mothers Day was a donation to World Vision, because I don't need anything. They heard him say, "Hon, you're allowed to have a present!"
Am I? Why?
They're with me for life, now. Spurring me into action. I cannot push them away and don't want to. In a few weeks I'll release my own fundraising effort here, which I haven't asked permission to do because permission is boring. Fundraising is also boring. So I've decided to make fundraising meaningful and cool.
The most shocking, most heartbreaking thing, about these ghosts?
Is that they don't expect a goddamn thing.
PS I am aware that I think about this simplistically, using language to match. Can't help it. If you are some learned Professor with a gajillion PHD's who is about to leave a snooty comment, think twice. I will mock you mercilessly. Just because I care doesn't mean I'm a saint.