Shortly after our arrival in Uganda, I was expressing frustration to Elder Story, a senior missionary and retired business man, about all the work we had to do and the need to do it now. He smiled, and told me a little secret: Uganda is where the type A personality comes to die, he said. We both had a good laugh over that and I moved on. But I have come to realize this is literally true.
Now that RaNae and I have been here nearly eight months, I can see that my anxiety over running my life just so, has faded into the most amazing, peaceful tranquility. This is not to say I no longer care, but that I have come to see the incredible beauty of what Ugandans have.
Many Ugandans live in simple mud huts in a family village. When a son marries, he brings his wife home and another hut is built. When a muza (moozay = old person) dies, she is buried next to her hut and a marker is set in place. The family digs in a shared garden for food. There is very little cash to buy things. At night, the family gathers in groups under a mango tree to chat or play games. We’ve driven by many villages at night and seen groups of people along the roadside, sitting under a tree or veranda by a little shop, laughing and talking of the day – and watching the Mzungus drive by in our nice truck.
Whatever happened to those days? At what point did our electronics, digital media, bright lights, and fast lifestyle drown out the simple beauties of just being alive another day?
My Dad, who is 94, says he wishes he could take his children and grandchildren back to the days of his childhood to see what it was like. Well, Dad, it’s right here in Uganda. You can go barefoot, with your feet in the dirt, plowing behind a matched pair of cattle as you plant the sweet potatoes. Watch the star-studded night sky with its Milky Way perfectly clear, like a cloud of white, from horizon to horizon. Do chores daily so you can enjoy simple meals of foods you’ve grown in your own garden. And life is good.
Almost nothing we eat is packaged or has a label. We seldom go out to eat. We read and play games in our spare time. Sometimes we dance in the kitchen. When we go to visit a person, we may be there for two or more hours, sitting under a tree and being introduced to every family member in the village, one by one. We walk rather than drive when we can. If we had our bicycles here, we’d ride them.
Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. Henry David Thoreau
So, if you are one whose digital calendar is swarming with appointments and daily tasks, if your heart races just thinking of all that absolutely must be done by Friday, if you are driven by bills and deadlines and social pressures…come on over to Uganda. Almost anyone here will welcome you and invite you to sit under their Mango tree to talk and let all that stuff just seep out of the soles of your bare feet into the tidy, neatly swept dirt that is their yard. It may take several months, but you will surely find what we have found here. Life is simply beautiful if you can just un-clutter yours and take time to see it. Better yet, take the steps to do the same things in your own hometown.