An unfortunate turn of events has inspired me to write about something different this month. I arrived safely in Rwanda on January 10th and enjoyed my first three days at the EarthEnable office. However, I woke on my fourth morning unable to walk due to excruciating back pain. I subsequently spent the next full week flat on my back on the floor in Kigali. I’m not one hundred percent sure how it happened, but it seems that I seriously sprained my lower back!
For anyone who has experienced debilitating injuries, you probably agree that the most challenging aspect about the situation is the constant reminder that you are unable to do the simplest tasks, and the corresponding embarrassment that comes when others have to do them for you. It’s akin to riding an emotional teeter-totter–feeling like a burden on people for whom you are immensely grateful.
Imagine me, if you will, crawling on all fours to the bathroom at night because walking just isn’t an option. And then reaching up to turn on the light, before realizing the switch is too high, and falling back to the floor in defeat. Had I been alone, I would have been forced to continue in the dark, but it was just then that my gracious host, Gaya, came by to flip the switch for me.
What a mixture of emotions: Embarrassment caused by my loss of independence and inability to do normal things, disgust for dragging myself across the floor (in Africa!), and profound gratitude that someone had been there to assist me in such an obscure time of need. I feel ashamed, but also thankful that I did not have to continue that humiliation alone in the dark.
My week was filled with little moments like this, and while I’m feeling good enough to come to work now, I anticipate the next week will bring at least a few more of these challenges. I wish I could say that by now I’ve had some sort of epiphany about how to handle these experiences gracefully, but the struggle is real, my friends. It’s really, really hard to hold in your heart both embarrassment and gratitude, humility and pride, dependence and independence.