‘Tis the Season to Forget

Most of us can remember a Christmas or a Thanksgiving or a Hanukkah or even a 4th of July long ago that is forever anchored in our mind as the best holiday ever. The right people were there. The conditions were perfect. The right gifts and foods and words were shared.

Those are the memories that bring us to a warm and happy place as we anticipate the holidays ahead.

Unfortunately, for many people, those happy thoughts are violently derailed by intervening events that fracture our anticipation and instill dread in place of joy. The death of a loved one. The serious illness of a friend. Divorce. Financial reversals. Relocation to a new city. Conflict between and among family and friends.

Tragically, for those who face these challenges, the blessed memories stand no chance against the fear we have that we will never be able to recapture the same warmth and happiness. As a result, we try to forget. And worse, we become resolved not to attempt to make new, happy memories. After all, those sacred moments might suffer the fate of the earlier ones. There is simply too much heartbreak at stake to try again.

What we must do this season is forget.

Not the good times, of course. Nor even the bad times, necessarily. Instead we must forget — even if it’s just for a moment — ourselves. For when we really analyze those old, wonderful memories, they are bound tightly to those people who surrounded us and who made them so good.

More importantly, we must remember that it is our presence — our smiles, our laughter, and sometimes even our tears — that make warm memories for others. And in doing that, we celebrate these holidays, these holy days, as honored guests of our King and our Creator.

May you enjoy wonderful holiday memories — both old and new!

Timely Procrastination

Do you suffer from procrastination? Have you ever had something you really needed to do, but you just couldn’t bring yourself to do it? Maybe you’re like me and have a whole list of these tenacious to-dos. What if I told you that I’ve discovered a sure-fire method to conquer these worry-mongers — efficiently and painlessly?

Well, I have two methods for you. The first is the answer to the procrastination problem you’ve heard dozens and dozens of times, but have routinely refused to pursue.  Simply do it.

Now, I know you’re a little upset with me because you wanted something new and exciting — like a new app for your smartphone — that would take each lingering item and line it up for elimination. And, because I have so much experience in this area, I think you probably would also like for this magical solution to include a premium-feature that would take care of these items without you actually having to do anything.

That’s not going to happen.

However, I can give you one more little tip that works every time I use it. Here it is:

Schedule 15 minutes to do something — anything — about the task you are putting off.

Schedule 15 minutes to do something — anything — about it.

Setting a time for your “procrastinable” allows you to set it aside and reduce your anxiety. Simply marking your calendar makes you feel better about yourself and this long-awaited activity.

Even if the item will take you an hour, set aside 15 minutes and show-up for that appointment with yourself. Several important processes will be set in motion.

  • In the moment, you’ll feel relief that you are finally doing something.
  • Forcing yourself to address the challenge allows you to truly assess what needs to be done.
  • Sometimes the effort required to do the task will allow you to decide whether this thing should be done by you — or at all.
  • Often, when we start working on things, the anticipation of fulfillment may push us through to completion. We find that we had more than 15 minutes, after all.

15 minutes. If it’s not worth 15 minutes, then maybe it really shouldn’t be on your list.

Procrastination isn’t a character problem. It’s a priority problem. Whatever is on your list, big or small, just set aside a little time to see what you can do.

Day 5.3 – Disappointed

On a day that held so much potential and that had generated so much anticipation, we couldn’t help but feel disappointed as we drove away from the refugee camp. For one thing, our much-loved Allison had not been able to make the trip in. Then, unexpectedly and somewhat dramatically, we were denied the privilege of leaving the gifts we had intended for the children and the adults.

It was hard to look around the bus. Disappointed is a mild word for how we felt. No one wanted to talk much about what had happened. Although, I believe that each and every one couldn’t think of anything else.

The donations of medical kits, maxipads, markers, papers, soccer balls, and other assorted items had been gathered by our team from family and friends. The duffel bags brimming with supplies weren’t just about stuff. They were a message to people who had been displaced from their homes and their native land that there were people from halfway around the world who cared.

And those bags and those supplies were leaving the refugee camp with us — a message undelivered.

As Benjamin Nkusi would explain to us later, he and the ALARM Rwanda staff had gone to a great deal of effort in arranging our trip to the refugee camp. He had gone through all of the proper channels and completed all of the paper work.

Yet, there in the camp, while members of our team were helping kids draw pictures and were inflating soccer balls, a camp official brought all of our good intentions to a standstill. The letter we had granting permission to make the donations was deemed to be lacking. One more seal, we were told. One more stamped insignia and we would have been allowed to leave our gifts.

You could tell from the slope of Ben’s shoulders that he was greatly disappointed. In fact, when I was trying to encourage him later he would merely say, “This was a bad day for Ben.” He, too, had wanted us to have that moment of charity that would bring a few nice things to these people.

So we were disappointed. As our bus made its way back toward Seeds of Peace Conference Center to pick up Allison, our disappointment turned to fatigue.

As we pulled up to Seeds of Peace, we were feeling some better. Ben had promised to follow through with the authorities in Kigali who oversee the refugee camp and to see to it that our donations would make their way to those for whom they were intended.

And, we were reunited with Allison. She wasn’t 100% and she, too, was disappointed seeing the bags left in the back. But we were encouraged by her good spirit and we set off toward Kigali with the hope of getting lunch along the way.

 

Day 5.1 – Anticipation

The Seeds of Peace Conference Center was in a beautiful spot, as we realized in the daylight. Lake Muhazi was literally at our doors and it lie still and quiet. Our anticipation for the events of the day grew.

The proximity of the lake also explained the exponentially higher number of insects we had encountered through the night and the carpet of dead bug carcasses stretched out at our front door the next morning. photoAlthough I had evaded the mosquitos, I had a couple of unexplained bites on my arm, likely spider — including one that had created a large bruise from the anti-coagulant injected.

2014-09-23 23.55.20Several members of our group had been excited about the opportunity to visit Seeds of Peace because it held out the possibility of a hot shower with plenty of water pressure. I’m not sure about anyone else, but Malcolm and I had hot water galore. I vaguely remember some noises about plenty of pressure but no heat. Since I was happily clean and accompanied by Malcolm, who had experienced the same success in his respective room and bath, the sad stories of Robyn and Betty about their showers didn’t hold my attention very long.

When we reached the little dining room that had been reserved for our breakfast, we learned that Dan and Allison had become ill during the night. Dan had managed to make it down to the breakfast in search of sustenance for himself and fluids for Allison. Our spirits were dampened as we worried about them. And then we considered the news that Robyn’s congestion had worsened during the night and that she was battling a significant upper respiratory infection. Anticipation, coupled with anxiety, began to fuel our thoughts.

Our breakfast proceeded in this suppressed mode and, as we finished, we one by one gathered outside to await news about Allison. When the decision was made that we would leave her at Seeds of Peace to rest while we went on to the refugee camp, we were torn. We were pleased that she would have a place to recover. We anticipated unknown stresses ahead from the journey and from the events to unfold at the refugee camp. But we were disappointed as we contemplated the fact that Allison, perhaps more than any of the rest of us, had looked forward to this visit with such passion. Indeed, the majority of the military duffel bags filled with items for distribution in the back of the bus had been thoughtfully packed by her. And, there was just a little something disturbing about leaving one of our team behind and alone without any reliable means of communication.

With spirits dampened, we boarded our bus and again began winding our way through the hills of Rwanda, stopping several times along the way to ask for directions. At a wide spot in the road, we turned left, circled a number of locals waiting for transportation, and headed up a washed-out, but dusty road. Passing through several villages, we slowly made our way up to the refugee camp. Anticipation grew.

We had been told that the camp had about 500 souls — with about 150 children.

Photo Credit: Betty Gilmore

Photo Credit: Betty Gilmore

As we closed in on the headquarters for the camp, we saw more and more of the Congolese refugees. We would later learn that more than 6,000 children resided there and 3,000 women. We never heard an estimate of the number of men. But they were definitely in the minority.

The further we moved up into the camp, the larger the hordes of children and adults grew. Our anticipation gave way to excitement, coupled with just an edge of anxiety.

(Note: With the exception of a few pictures of our training sanctioned by the refugees camp administrators, we were not allowed to take photos inside the camp.)

Day 3 – Flexibility

Day 3 was a learning day for us. We had been told that flexibility was a key to our success while in Africa. We began to learn about flexibility even before we began to train security forces in Rwanda.

Our training session was to take place in a meeting room of the Top Tower Hotel in downtown Kigali at 8 a.m. Our transportation convoy (a Toyota Prado Land Cruiser and a Corolla) was eventually ready to roll from the ALARM Training Center at 8:15 a.m. That departure time put us in the midst of rush hour traffic.

Rush hour takes on new meaning in Rwanda. Pedestrians, buses of all sizes, bicycles, cars, and the ever-present motorcycle taxis swarm like ants on a fallen ice cream cone.

Apparently, stop signs serve only to warn you that there may be vehicles coming from other directions — because you don’t stop. Evidently, the stop sign doesn’t necessarily indicate which vehicle may have the right of way either.  And crosswalks seem to be designed to inform motorists the areas where they should speed up. Those on foot enter the crosswalk at their own risk and then run as fast as possible. Both the pedestrian and the driver bearing down on them seem to enjoy the game.

You also need to know that is apparently acceptable to drive your vehicle in any open space on the road. And everyone uses their horn as a declaration of the assumption of that space.

Yet, we saw little anger or frustration. Perhaps its because this is a culture dominated by flexibility.

District Executive Secretary, Raymond, & ALARM Rwanda National Coordinator, Benjamin Nkusi

District Executive Secretary, Raymond, & ALARM Rwanda National Coordinator, Benjamin Nkusi

We arrived at the hotel about 45 minutes late and then waited another 15 minutes to begin. Why? Because the executive secretary of the district had stepped forward to encourage the security officers. And since he had the floor, our arrival as the training team didn’t seem to dampen his desire to continue. Over the next 2 days, we learned to love this man, Raymond, and all of those who worked for him.

We spent a great deal of time engineering our presentations and the overall schedule. Our event organizers noted that and then worked out the final schedule in coordination with the hotel in regard to breaks and lunch. Then, pretty much, we were on our own to try and fit our materials into whatever time we actually had.

And it went very well.

The participants were totally delightful. In their role as security officers, these men and women walk the streets of the district at night and are the first responders — the unarmed first responders — to any problem. Behind them stood the National Police and, if necessary, the military. But most conflict is handled by these fine folks. And, even though they are night-time workers, they came to the training prepared to listen, to participate, and to learn.

Sixty-seven participants.

Flexible. When breaking for tea and coffee, they stood patiently and happily even though the hotel had assigned only one person to pour beverages. And the breaks were rarely at their scheduled time. Fifteen minute breaks stretched to one hour.

Practicing flexibility. The participants listened respectfully as each word we said was painstakingly translated into Kinyarwandan and just as patiently when what they told us was translated into English.

Whereas our American cultural background would have led us to believe that we had a right to complain, these people simply sat back, enjoyed the moment, and smiled.

One of the biggest delights was coming back from our first break and having the participants spontaneously break into song. While we might have felt a slight edge of frustration from the delays of the day, they were telling us that flexibility and calm would make all seem right.

They were teaching us about peace and the release of internal conflict.

Odd . . . wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing?

Well, yes. In fact, we were.

Security Training 1And, in fact, we were. We were teaching and they were teaching. We were sharing and they were sharing. In our bonding in a required environment of flexibility we were forming an international bond of peace.

And that’s exactly what we were meant to do.

Flexibility is an integral part of peace. We just about have that part down.