Kyra Noblet has recently returned from Dodoma in Tanzania, where she worked in the local school, youth centre and Cheshire Home, as part of the JM Volunteers programme. Here she reflects upon one timely affect of her experience.
There is an old Swahili proverb, ‘Mambo mazuri hayataki haraka’, ‘Good things should not be hastened’, which beautifully encapsulates one of the many things I learned earlier this year from my six month experience in Dodoma. I discovered that Africa overwhelms the senses, and I shared many incredible sights, smells and tastes with the local people. In fact, I had the opportunity to share many things: my faith with other young people, languages and dialogues with my students, my rucksack with a scorpion, and most importantly, time. I shared a lot of time with the community there and I learned that the Tanzanians are remarkably practiced in making time to greet people, to listen, to understand, to learn and to empathize. Greetings in African culture are especially important and in Airport Parish where I worked, members of the community happily and freely relinquished their minutes to take time to greet one another, ask about each others families, and stayed long enough to hear the reply.
We don’t tend to be as selfless with our time here in the UK, and I think we miss far more than we realise. A lot of life’s small miracles are often overlooked and fade into a frenzied, hectic day. For the Tanzanians, even the small things are sincerely appreciated; a warm conversation, a breathtaking view. The disabled children I worked with in the Cheshire Home in Miyuji had very little to treasure but for them an old bucket was a new hat and a tired blanket could very quickly become a magic cloak!
The pace of life in Africa is very different from that in our cities and during my stay I didn’t always cross off my to-do list or finish all my ironing; but when I climbed into bed at the end of each day, I knew that I had been listened to, I had understood and I had shared. I got up the next day and went into work (with rather creased clothes) but with a sense of integrity and value, knowing that I mattered to the community, that I belonged, and that the relationships which had been attentively developed over my months there had such depth that I found myself unable to feel alone in any problem or crisis.
It is this investment of time that leads to solid networks between parishes and families. All the ribbons of community life become wonderfully bound together and in time this steadfast web is able to support each individual. Communities are supposed to be eclectic and colourful and when people from very different generations and lifestyles come together, it will not be without its problems; but as I’ve seen first-hand, strong relationships and bonds help to nourish a healthy environment where respect and appreciation of one another can flourish.
The act of listening seems to have been lost somewhere in our hectic lifestyles. Relationships and communities can’t be expected to develop or endure on their own, they need a generous helping of time. Benjamin Disraeli once said “But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day.’ We all have plenty of moments to cherish and plenty of moments to give. Since my trip, I have learnt to appreciate the ordinary as extraordinary and to leave my watch at home every once in a while.
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