I love quotes, especially good ones; ones that make you get goosebumps. In Tolkien's epic film there's a point in the second installment that is particularly good. The two main characters are sitting in a city that's been destroyed and they want to give up their quest. One complains that the task is too big, the journey too far, and they are too small to continue on. And Samwise turns to his friend saying "it's like in the great strories, the ones that really matter. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened to it? But in the end it is only a passing thing this shadow, even darkness must pass. A new day will come... those are the stories that stayed with you, that meant something, even if you were too small to understand why....Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't; they kept going cause they were holding onto sometihng. (What were they holding onto?) That there is some good in this world and it is worth fighting for. "
Today was our final day in Malawi. And I could tell you about the meeting with its minutiae and who said what but that will come in time. I would rather tell you, with the little time I have left me, what has especially struck me about this place in this time: there are two types of people in the world. Those with hope and those without.
Men sitting on porches because there is nothing to do, no job prospects, no reasonable expectations that anything will change because nothing has changed in the past. These people hedge their bets by not reaching out for new ideas, for new relationships, for new hopes that have yet to be realised. They're content with the status quo. (I could be saying this about our city, people we know and see. ) There are elections coming soon to Malawi. The ruling party, DPP, is an urban party. The opposition parties (MCP, UDF) are rural. When we drive to Kamenzi you see the flags for the rural parties everywhere. There are election headquarters and the supporters know which way they will vote, MCP/UDF; they also, however, wear DPP shirts. I assume it's because it's a free shirt. Hedging their bets.
Then there are those who are willing to try something new for the chance of a good reward. They try new techniques; they learn new things; they share. There are bicyclists who go along the roads and sides of highways with huge stacks of charcoal bound for the capital, Lilongwe. There is a problem, however. The police put up checkpoints to check for incoming goods which aren't allowed to be shipped. Charcoal, for some reason, is one of them. They fetch a much higher price in the city. So these bicyclists will bike for kilometres until the appointed time, when they turn off the road and circumvent the police, trying to arrive at the destination. They are doing something to improve their lot. I even saw one wearing a Toronto maple leafs jersey; if that's not hope, I'm not sure what is.
On the way back from the Lake, i could see small fires in the huts sporadically spread out against the mountains. It reminded me of a Bob Goudzwaart speech I heard a couple of years ago and about Tolkien again. Goudzwaard was talking about hope in troubled times had said that even the smallest of lights cuts through the deepest of darkness.
He told a story of an encounter with Archbishop Desmond Tutu during Apartheid. And Desmond Tutu was convinced that he had seen the end of apartheid because the times were so dark for his countrymen. His explanation was that in the darkest point of night, each night, every night, the first star to come out shining is the morningstar; a herald of good things to come. Signifying that the darkness cannot be there forever, that morning and light and warmth are coming very soon.
This is what we have seen, hope in troubled times, lights in the deepest darkness: the women's groups, the literacy groups, the farming groups, the sanitation groups, the orhpanage people, all small fires of hope along the mountainsides.
It may seem like a huge task ahead of us, one that is too big for us to handle, too difficult to complete, too painful to see through, but many have felt the same before us. "It is up to us to decide what to do with the time given us" in this relationship, and with others. As I leave, I would like to leave you with a quote from the Shawshank Redemption:
"Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And a good thing never dies."