There's a little gazebo just 20 feet or so from my front door. It's sort-of my office. It's also my favorite reading spot, birdwatching spot, breakfast nook, outdoor living room. From here, I have a view of just a small piece of our compound, of the 2 fields adjacent to our property where the cows often graze, and of what used to be my neighbors' tilapia pond. It's peaceful and fairly private.
A hundred yards further east, we have a new gazebo, by our guest housing. Though it's just a few feet closer to the Kipkaren River, that gazebo is completely different. It's where the river picks up speed and runs over several rocks, creating the most amazing sounds. The bird life there is slightly different as there are fewer trees. Which also makes for a completely different view, both from the gazebo, and of the gazebo.
I've spent amazing times there reading, even serving meals to visitors. Other times, I have chosen to abandon the spot since my presence created a strange flow of curious visitors to come and stand by the river and stare at me while I'm reading...
Tonight, after dropping off a plate of pasta at a neighbor's home, I decided to go to sit at the river for a while to enjoy my dinner. I sat in silence, listening to the rapids and the other night sounds, watching a lightning storm in the distance, over Lake Victoria*.
It was amazing to realize what a difference a change in perspective can make: A simple move -- all of a 2-minute walk to the other side of our compound -- allowed me to see past the trees, past the hill on the other side of the river where I live. From there, I could see the lights of our clinic down the road. (And from the clinic, you can see the lights of the children's home. While my place is smack halfway between the two, I cannot see the lights of either from my home.)
It's easy to get blinded at times by our surroundings. Sometimes, it's worth the short walk to see things from a different side.
Though things are very peaceful in my compound tonight, I was reminded that there's a storm brewing over the lake. I also remembered my neighbors on the other side of the river who lost a daughter last week when she hemorrhaged after giving birth to a perfect little girl. Her family had to carry her across the bridge to our clinic on a tarp, and it was too late for our nurses to save the young mother's life.
And I remembered Mwalimu's family, a teacher who lives just on the other side of our clinic. I saw the lights of his house this weekend when I had dinner at William and Michele's home. (Very few people in our community have electricity, so the handful that do stand out at night!) William came to tell me today that this neighbor had passed away last night from TB, and his family is gathered tonight to prepare for his funeral.
May I not forget to step out of my comfort zone to help share the pain and the joy of those around me. Like this morning, when I took my cup of coffee to a nearby neighbor's house and spent an hour listening to what is happening in their world. It's the simple actions that sometimes show we care. We don't have to wait to do something grandiose. Just be there. Step out. And love.
I don't do it nearly as often as I could.
* The Kenyan shore of the lake isn't too far from here, and I'm amazed that I've not yet made a road trip there! Will have to do convince some colleagues to do so one weekend! I've not done it till now due to the state of the road between Eldoret and Kisumu, but it's worth the drive, I'm sure.
And by the way, I had to stop halfway through my meal and retreat into the safety of my home, else the mosquitoes may have carried me off to the lake themselves...