Tonight I just had to get out and walk. After a day of church, a big family feast, and being shown a photo album of beautiful wedding pictures, I desired some alone time.
I crave the back-country roads of rural NY, where I rarely pass another person on foot and am more likely to encounter a few cars, many cows and if I’m lucky, some deer. Memories of the green fields, big trees, and crickets fade as I step out onto the red dusty potholed road and head south.
So many people. So many vehicles, from cars to trucks to bikes to boda bodas, pass by. It’s not like rush hour traffic at all. It’s just I’m in the mood for some quiet and some space but that is not possible on this road, at least not based on what I’ve experienced so far.
And I’m white. I’m new. I’m different. This white skin of mine attracts attention.
All I want tonight as I walk is to be invisible. Can I just be me without all the attention tonight? Please? Just for a mile? What would it take? What would it be like?
Wearing sunglasses helps a little… they give me a layer of privacy from the staring. But oh, Harry Potter, where are you and your invisibility cloak when I need you?
As the sun starts to dip below the faraway hills I turn around to head home. As I get closer to home I hear familiar voices call out, “Mzungu!” from just down the hillside to my left. It’s the group of kids that I’ve been playing high 5 with. They come running and stumbling up the hillside calling out, “High 5! High 5?”
The first boy to reach me is wearing a navy-blue t-shirt, has a runny nose, and is probably 3-4 years old. He raises his hand up with an expectant look in his shiny brown eyes. “High 5?” My desire for an invisibility cloak dissolves. This sweet, innocent, playful connection melts my heart open. I give him a high 5.
Another young boy stands next to him, also with hand raised and that expectant excited look in his eyes. “High 5!” I smile and high 5 him. It’s not just enough to slap hands – we say “High 5!” to each other. Next to him is a taller girl, maybe age 7, with a Hello Kitty t-shirt on. More kids arrive. We do rounds of high 5’s ‘cause one is never enough. There is giggling and smiling and more stumbling over each other to both give each other a chance for a high 5 while also reinserting themselves into the circle to get more.
Tonight, the adults nearby begin to wander over. One man comes right up to me and introduces himself and shakes my hand. ‘Where have you been the last 2 days?’ he asks. Ummm… ok… so this is what it’s like to be tracked in my comings and goings. Who else is tracking me? He starts telling me a story that I don’t quite follow but it’s ok as the kids and I are still high-5’ing amidst our conversation.
Another man comes over, ‘Hello. How are you? Where is your friend?’ He’s referring to Linda, who has walked with me several times here. That whole invisibility privacy thing ain’t working at all here! I smile, respond, do another round of high-5’s and say goodbye.
As I walk away a couple of the little boys run after me and I pretend I’m running fast so they can’t catch up. We all laugh and then I pause to do some more high 5’s. It’s touch, it’s contact, it’s play; it’s so simple and yet dissolved that desire for invisibility and to have a barrier up between me and others.
I return home feeling lighter and more spacious, even though it was a different kind of walk than what I experience back home. And isn’t that why I’m here? To have different experiences? To be beyond the world of what is known to discover all the more that exists?
Yeah… that. So I get to be with it all: the moments of homesickness and wanting to be invisible and those simple moments of connection and stretching beyond my comfort zone to discover more and more and more of what else is possible?