Today in Umphumulo, the temperature hit a whopping 104 F. According to
my neighbor Sifiso, that's the hottest it's been here in a very long
time. It really hit me when I realized that it was literally 120
degrees warmer here than it was in Minnesota last week. As we say in
isiZulu, "Kuyashisa kakhulu. Kakhulu." It's hot. Really hot.
And as luck would have it, this afternoon I found myself walking to
Umphumulo Primary School during the hottest part of the day. Uphill
the whole way. In the sun. Yeesh.
As pretty much any of my college friends will tell you, I have a bad
habit of walking too fast. Four years of having classes on opposite
sides of campus allowed me to perfect the cross-campus-dash.
Unfortunately, the habit stuck, and I still tend to walk about twice
as fast as a normal human being.
Today broke that habit pretty fast. The walk to the primary school
from where I stay is tough on a day with reasonable temperatures. But
in 104 degree heat, it was brutal. All of a sudden, my typical pace
seemed pretty unreasonable.
And so I walked. Very, very slowly. And I paused in the rare spots of
shade to wipe away the sweat. And I walked some more. Very slowly. I
had the time to savor the shade. I kept my eyes up. I noticed things I
didn't notice before. I walked (slowly!) with a mother and daughter. I
had a conversation I wouldn't have had if I were moving faster. We
talked about how it was hot and how we were tired. But we made it. It
wasn't that bad after all.
This evening, when it finally cooled down enough for my brain to
function normally, I realized that there's probably a life lesson or
two tucked away in that trek up the hill. Here's one that speaks to me
in this particular "season" of my YAGM year:
Sometimes the conditions can be tough. Sometimes I feel like I'm
walking uphill the whole way. Sometimes the destination seems distant
and the journey intense. Sometimes it would be easier to just stay
inside out of the heat. Sometimes the circumstances make even normal
tasks seem more difficult.
Sometimes I'm tempted to react to these circumstances by moving
quickly, by pulling up those Midwestern bootstraps, fixing my eyes on
the road, and plowing through.
But sometimes it's better to walk slowly in the heat. To feel the
fullness of the challenge. To appreciate the moments of rest. To take
time to notice the details. To savor time with companions. To admit to
one another that the way is difficult. To admire the strength of the
other. And to share in the vulnerability of the walk.