Monday, September 3, 2007

The Kind of Hearts You Have

At 3:00am recently I awakened with this memory and I wanted to share it with my children so I hoped online and created this email for them. I had repatriated my elder children back to the United States with the final batch of American evacuees during the later stages of the coup in 1989. I had high hopes for Liberia's recovery and the possibility that our family had a future in Liberia and so I stubbornly remained with my three youngest children who were Zevah (10 years), Zefron (8 years) and Elitikvah (6 years). My plan was to wait out the coup and later send for the elder children. As it turned out we would also be forced to flee Liberia.

Dear Children,

If you recall Binah and her daughter Yohanna and Penemiel had been sent back to America and we stayed. Binah was young and beautiful and it would have been hard for me to defend her against a soldier deciding to rape her during the war and I was terrified that Penemiel, who was a wild, free spirit, always curious, always exploring other areas would be kidnapped and forced to become a child soldier. They were evacuated by the American Embassy about for or five long months before we decided to flee. I kept you three with me and home schooled you. My hope was that America would intervene in Liberia's affairs and that the coup would not turn into a bloody Civil War. My thinking was that, since I co-owned First Steps Child Development Center, and had been guaranteed a part time job at the Embassy, on the horizon, I would be able to afford plane fare back to Liberia for Binah, Yohanna and Penemiel and all would be well... at least that's what I thought at the time.

At any rate, the three of us, were living in our house on Chubor Road. Food was very, very scarce. People who had food hid it and cooked at night or indoors instead of outside on the coal pot as we typically did in Liberia. Liberians are such generous people and it was painful to keep having food a secret. We had a bag of rice which we had hidden in the ceiling to protect it from being stolen soldiers. For the 4 of us I was cooking only 2 scoops of rice for the entire day! Every morning I got up very early and walked to the market to fight for whatever vegetables I could get in the market to make the soup for our little rice.

This particular day, the little girl that Zevah and Zefron played with across the road was very sick with malaria and her father came to tell us. She had been sick for awhile with malaria and her family was treating her with roots and herbs. They had no chloroquine and they had no food. I remember listening to her father saying that if she didn't eat he thought she would die. He sat with a heavy heart and I promised that we would pray for her and then he left. When he left I called you together and explained how serious her situation was and that I wanted us to pray for her as a family.

And then the most wonderful thing happened. Zefron said, "She can have my rice!" and Zevah agreed as did Elitikvah. We talked about the fact that giving away our food would mean that we wouldn't have food to eat that evening and you all were fine with it. So we put all of the soup that we had for dinner, keeping just a bit of the rice and oil to cut your hunger, into a bowl.
I really wanted you children to feel the effects of your sacrifice and so I covered the bowl and handed it to Zefron and you guys humbly carried the soup across the road and spent some time sitting with your little friend.

As a mother, that was one of the proudest moments of my life! Here were my children, in the midst of a war with hunger all around them, giving up their food for a sick friend. It is easy to be generous in the midst of plenty but when you are personally facing hunger and are willing to give your food to someone who needs it more, this is real generosity and real love. When I reflect on our time during the War in Liberia, the series of miracles that kept us safe during that time and the miracle of our eventual escape from Liberia I'm sure that the Universe was just giving back some of the good that we projected in Liberia.

I have no idea why after all these years my spirit gave me back this memory but I wanted to write this memory down and share it so that you always remember that you all have the capacity for loving and giving in the midst of serious adversity. Have a wonderful and productive day!

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Reflections of the Past

I lived as an American expatriate in Liberia for 11 years and I've written a memoir of experiences that I had in Liberia. I'm wondering if there are any other expatriates that lived in Liberia out there that want to talk about our experiences.