“When joy is a habit, love is a reflex.“
Before coming to Tanzania I thought I knew what the above quote meant. I thought I knew what it meant to exude joy, and thus pour love into those around you. However, after being here for just about a month, I have realized that truthfully, I had no idea what that meant until my time in Arusha.
Africa has shown me unrelenting joy in a way that I never knew possible, and that joy is overwhelmingly followed with a constant love of others. Walking down the street to the dala dala station, I am met with a multitude of high fives, greetings, and kisses blown from strangers. At first, this kind of scared me, as it has been engrained in me that strangers should be met with caution. While I do still believe this, as I am still a foreigner here and I need to be cautious, the vast majority of these people only want to be met with kindness, and they expect nothing else in return. This is because, despite the hardships that they face on a day to day basis, they meet all those that they come in contact with joy, appreciation, and love.
Even more so than those I meet on my daily adventures around town, my students exude joy in a way that I admire and honestly, envy a little bit. Being able to come to school, receive lunch, and spend time with friends is something that I absolutley took for granted when I was younger, yet these sweet children see school as the greatest thing in the world and come in every single day excited to learn and grow. They meet me with a level of joy every single day that I cannot quite describe. From the way that they excitedly shout every time an airplane passes over the school, to the way they are so eager to share their newfound academic abilities, these sweet kids exude joy in an incredible way. It is a kind of joy that I feel so lucky to be a part of, a kind of joy that shows you what is important in life.
These people, and more specifically, these children, are content without the materialistic lifestyle that we as a society keep feeding into, absentmindedly hoping that maybe one day acquiring the right car, house, or newest iPhone will suddenly make us feel whole. People here don’t seem to care about any of that. They want to spend time with one another. They want to eat in community with others, dance freely, and in doing this, they have shown me that these are the things that matter. Things will not bring us joy, people and experiences will.
Now that this lesson has been so deeply ingrained in those I am honored to live in community with, they can spend their time pouring out love onto the people around them, because at the end of the day, what greater gift can you give another person that your love? The people that I have been able to learn from here have truly made joy a habitual action in their lives, and, in turn, they spread love like they are made of it.
Song of the Week: Seasons by Grayson Chance