That’s a photograph of my late maternal grandmother in her youth, which was a long time ago. Her name was Kaethe Meysner. And “a long time ago”feels rather relative now that I am definitely not naively young anymore.
When I am looking at all these college aged kids I know, many of whom I taught at children’s church since they were just preschoolers, I realize what an unkind privilege youth is. To believe you have all the time in the world ahead of you, that resources are endless and life is good… only to realize a decade later that time is running out, mercilessly, that resources are hard to come by and life simply is not fair.
I loved my grandmothers. But I realize now how little I knew about them. The thought that they, born in the early twenties of the last century, had a life that is totally different from ours always let me to believe that they were a totally different type people. I mean, look at an old movie. The hair, the tone of voice, the taste in decoration, all very different. But when you grow older, you suddenly realise the people were just the same. What are a few decades? Life slipped through their hands, and since my grandmothers did not build any companies or wrote famous books, basically all that’s left from their lives are their children’s and grandchildren’s memories of them. I am still sad that the little items my granny collected over a life time have somehow disappeared and all my grandfather’s bronze art has gone to an aunt. I have nothing left of my ancestors except a few photos. Which grieves me and scares me as it reminds me how quickly a whole life can be over and forgotten without leaving much traces. This teaches me that the greatest legacy I will leave behind are my children and what I impact into them.
My life in Africa has added to this stark realization of the insignificance of a human life. Recently a friend died after a minor medical procedure that went slightly wrong, and the doctors just didn’t care. He died on the way home from hospital. A short life – over before it amounted to anything that would even just justify an article in the daily paper.
Maybe in my youth I would have been labelled as an optimistic idealist, but over the years this has drastically changed. Especially after moving to Africa where thousands of people die every day and tragedy is not seen as unusual, my trust in the goodness of life completely crumbled.
A day in Europe is so much longer. There are cultural events to look forward to, parks to go for strolls, life has a much slower pace. As pastors in South Africa we deal daily with so much crisis and despair, that our weeks run into each other and before you notice, another 3 years have gone by. The thing is, none of the people you have helped will come back and look after you when you are in need. I have seen the opposite happen. When we were ourselves notable to give out any more food parcels, or had to put up rules, people can get very grumpy no matter how much you have helped them before.
How do I slow down this life? How can I leave footprints that last? I do not know if I have the mind to produce a classic piece of literature and I believe those days are anyway over. A great movie cost those involved in it 1-3 years of their life. And for the consumer it’s all over in 2 hours.
Without God, it is impossible to make sense of being a timeless being in a time constricted universe.
The hope of a life that lasts an eternity helps to act unselfish here and now.
I could never understand how someone could deal with weapons, making a fortune of the cruel death of others, and then go home and swim in the pools with their children?
But how then can you parent to leave a legacy if consequences are removed?
This tiny spec of life that I have must be used for something positive. A decade has passed too quickly. Believing that God sees and appreciates the effort is a comfort.
Something interesting, maybe a tat whacky, for you to be amazed at: http://www.highexistence.com/water-experiment/
Enjoy your evening!