Working in community development, can sometimes mean a fluidity/blurring of the professional & personal. By which I mean, that when journeying with people who -due to a number of factors- are marginalised, things can’t always be neatly packaged into the ‘9-5’.
Boundaries, though still definitely important and necessary, have to have some appropriate flex in them, and an ability to not just be based on a ‘one size fits all’ model and mindset.
Those invites to significant family events (weddings, birthdays, son’s circumcision…) can’t always be a “sorry, can’t make it.” More particularly so when working in ‘hot climate’ countries/cultures; which have retained their strong emphasis on communal relationships, community over the individual and the such like.
This week, we had a moment of indecision re going ahead with a planned session for parents at a local kindergarten. As team members who had gone in earlier, were met with the news that one of the kindergarten Mums had passed away earlier that morning. Information on what had happened wasn’t quite clear, the customary visits to the home needed to happen (and culturally should happen as soon as possible before the body is collected), the head of the kindergarten thought it was better to cancel, one of the parent volunteers thought the session should go ahead, and a couple of us waited on the other end of a whatsapp group to hear the final word on whether to come in or stay home. Eventually we got the word “you can come in.” and I’m glad we did.
Before we started the session, as we all sat gathered on the floor in a circle, one of the teachers from the kindergarten led us in prayers for the deceased, their family left behind and so on. You could feel the sense of collective loss, you could see the quiet wiping of tears. Then the time was turned over to our team. My colleague, with true compassion evident in her voice, added our condolences and prayers. Particularly for the children now without their mother. It was right, and a privilege for us to participate in this act of mourning. – And then we went on with the session, dropping certain elements so as to fit the time we had left. It was a good session.
Doing life with people, as in truly doing life with them, will invariably mean that we be prepared to mourn with them. It may not always be because of the passing of someone, but there will be other losses. Great and small.
Many of us are great at the begining part of the quoted verse,
Rejoice with those who rejoice;
Some of us need to be more up for the latter part.
mourn with those who mourn.
Let’s endeavour to do life well with people. Life in all its fullness. Life in the good, and the bad.