A few weeks ago I got to reunite with one of my previous bosses. With someone who looked at the freshly turned eighteen year old me and decided to give her a chance. She along with many others contributed to one of many particularly significant years of my life. A year when I was an intern at a church. A year when I moved out from home for the first time and started finding my footing in the world. It was a fun year full of laughter and challenges but a year that stretched and changed me. It was a year which contained the moment when my roommate and I decided that we could conquer the world because we had successfully managed our first load of laundry!
When I got to meet my boss again, in Mbale, it reminded me of the long list of people just like her who have contributed to my life. I’ve always been acutely aware that without community, we aren’t really anything. Our experiences don’t happen in isolation, we live them with others. We let others shape us, just as we shape others, whether we are conscious of it or not. I am so aware that there are many people who have contributed to my life in many different ways and I wouldn’t be here without them. The people who lived life with me, challenged me and loved me along the way.
The ones who helped turn a four year old girl who hid in the hospital wardrobe from her mum and newborn baby brother because she was afraid of “the tubes” to a woman whose given IVs on a regular basis.
The ones who gave time and space to the teenage me to think through the big questions in life and wrestle with ideas of identity and worth, loving her along the way.
The ones who talked through different choices for university and who reassured an eighteen year old me that no matter what I chose and no matter what my grades were, that it was going to be ok and that my life would be filled with so many opportunities.
The ones who encouraged her that of course, even with a fear of blood, and not being able to watch hospital TV programmes, that it would be different in real life and that she could defy these fears and become a midwife.
The ones who sent texts and walked that newly qualified midwife through the first stressful as well as wonderful year. Those who mopped up the tears when that newly qualified midwife thought she couldn’t do it, and refused to let her give up because they knew that she could.
The ones who listened and told that twenty five year old me that it was going to get better when she was diagnosed with anxiety and OCD and who encouraged her with CBT techniques (who put up with the funny faces pulled when practicing progressive muscle relaxation!!).
The ones who asked the overthinking and unsure twenty eight year old what she had to lose if she asked to take a year off from work to volunteer with Jenga and asked her what she’d have to gain if she loved it.
I’m well aware that I’m hugely indebted to my family and friends but also a whole army of teachers, pastors, youth leaders, godparents and even the one off meetings with relative strangers who have got me to where I am now. This African proverb is quite correct. It does take a village. Amongst other things, we are the sum of our experiences, our communities and how we let those shape us.
The other day I decided I wanted to try paddle boarding and managed to rope my brother in. It just so happened that the moment my Dad came to take photos was the moment that I had decided that I was done. My arms, legs and core ached and the shore and the dive centre seemed an age away. He took one look at me and started encouraging me to pick myself up and to keep going, I wasn’t far away. But it didn’t take long for him to realise that I was done. That I was checked out. Even attempting to walk the board and paddle along the sea back to where I was needing to return them was too much. Infact I was so tired that the board took me out as a bigger wave came along! As I shouted “I’m done”, he helped me pick the board up, and shouldered the weight as we attempted to drag it back to where it belonged.
There have been so many people who have played that role in my life throughout the years, who have picked me up when I was at the end of my limits as well as those who offered gentle encouragements along the way.
It made me wonder what will my legacy be. Who have I and will I be supporting and helping to carry their board? Who is there around me who I can be supporting? Whether it’s just a simple encouragement or more intensive mentoring.
And it prompted me to think of all those who have had an impact in my life, whether big or small, and those who will continue to do so. I am a sum of my faith, my experiences but also of the communities I am a part of and I’m so thankful for that. It’s been in the big and significant moments but also in rushed moments and quick chats when the other person probably never realised the significance of the input they have had. So whatever role you have played in that, thank you, I am so grateful! I can’t wait to continue this journey of life and to see where we get together!