House and Gratitude

For those who have asked for pictures, this is where Kathryn & I are living in Lilongwe.

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It’s pretty amazing that I’m here. Not just in that unfamiliar places are amazing to experience, but that I didn’t, I don’t know, earn it. I certainly had some expenses here and there, but this trip is largely thanks to other people. My family in particular, throughout my life have been supportive in many ways of whatever I wanted to do and whoever I thought I was. My sisters and parents each gave me some money to help out with the cost of the trip. Anjali’s partner Han generously contributed endless frequent flyer miles to my flight. When my departure date moved up, friends at the restaurant covered for my shifts I was leaving behind. Kathryn contributed a significant chunk of money towards my travels too. My room and board are paid for through her work.

I’d love to stay here for a year or two, honestly. I still haven’t built up the momentum I’d like to someday have with my drafting, but I’m getting there, and I’ll be there soon. I love the simple goals of pushing through these projects and having fun with Kathryn. Life is simple when you’re isolated, happy, and you don’t have to work.

We also have a lovely yard:Image

I’ve heard from others at the clinic about how great her work is and what a powerful positive impact she’s having on so many lives there. It justifies me being here, in a way. I feel like I’m not just a tourist, and it’s okay that I’m not even working a job when she’s helping out in a place of such great need. If an officer pulls me over and asks me to justify my existence I’ll just say I’m with Kat.

Here–a British midwife at the clinic, as she gives us advice on what to do with our evening and talks about her life, still wonders (as she adds up some quick figures) am I really making a difference? We know she has saved a life this week. To my mind, making meaning doesn’t get much more basic than that. I’ve never saved any lives.

Well then I guess everyone who cares about what they’re doing has doubts about their personal impact, right? That sounds like the sort of generalization that’s usually true enough to say, and should maybe be consolation when I wonder if I’m wasting the luck of my mobility and resources on stories of questionable worth.

On the other hand, maybe life is too short and I’ve got too much to write to have to prove to myself that I deserve to write. Shouldn’t I just feel gratitude for the privilege and keep typing?

Then maybe, life is some metaphorical lake with drowning babies out of a philosophy textbook. We’ve all heard this, right?

I used the example of walking by a shallow pond and seeing a small child who has fallen in and appears to be in danger of drowning. Even though we did nothing to cause the child to fall into the pond, almost everyone agrees that if we can save the child at minimal inconvenience or trouble to ourselves, we ought to do so. Anything else would be callous, indecent and, in a word, wrong. The fact that in rescuing the child we may, for example, ruin a new pair of shoes is not a good reason for allowing the child to drown.

So in a world with great need, like this one, maybe the only thing to do is to save every drowning child and then write afterwards. And there’s a lot of them, this would clearly take lifetimes to do, so this is therefore a noble thought.

I wouldn’t do it though. Even if the collective moral sense came down in front of me personified and made it very clear that this was categorically what they expected of me. (Actually, I might then, but only because it’d make me feel like a superhero or like I was talking to a burning bush or something). But the point is, according to my moral sense, writing is less good and less noble than, say, any job you might work here at this other clinic (in the Congo). But I’m going to write anyway.

Hm.

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