Another really long day. Lots of poles put in place and we leveled lots of ground.
Breaking rocks, moving dirt, hauling trees: hard work. Convincing an entire village that if they don’t accept a gift of a one year eviction extension, they will lose everything: nigh impossible. Convincing the local politicians to accept and quickly act on the decision of the people before they get a power trip out of being the last thing preventing a village of 400+ from being bulldozed: Requires Miracle.
When I got out of bed this morning, every muscle ached. My eyes burned, my throat was nearly closed. I was dehydrated and exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do was manual labor. After several meetings though, I was longing for some manual labor. I hate meetings. I hate politics. But had our ragtag group bailed on these meetings, I know without a doubt that an entire village, even those unaffected by the fire, would have been bulldozed.
The politicians were lazy and the people were clueless and lied to by the very people elected to protect them.
We had a mini town meeting and explained to the residents what was really going on. We told them that if they didn’t ask for a formal extension they were going to face eviction by bulldozer. They agreed even though some residents were wrongly convinced they could do nothing and they would be blissfully ignored for another five or ten years.
We passed the job of finalizing and delivering the letter to the LC1 and explained the hard deadline of 8am Thursday morning. He missed the deadline and jeopardized the homes of over 400 people. We hunted him down and delivered the letter ourselves two hours past the deadline. It was accepted by the landowner, no thanks to the politicians.
All the sweat, blisters and wasted muscles are nothing compared to the importance of that simple letter.
But by saving them from eviction, we’ve also committed ourselves to them for the next year. We can’t just build shelter and walk away because a year from now they will likely be evicted. We are setting ourselves up for a job much harder than building homes.. we must build futures.
This, I think, is why we are here. This is why I was so inexplicably drawn to the victims of this fire. I’m seeing with fresh eyes that charity is not a solution and it is not a “means to an end”. Rather, it is a stopgap measure. It is triage. Triage is necessary in a crisis situation. Stabilization is critical. But no one breathes a sigh of relief when someone they love advances from “critical” to “critical but stable”.
And I can’t rightly allow myself to, either.
This morning I was exhausted, secretly hoping for an end to the labor. By the end of the day, though, something in me had changed. I didn’t have a job. I wasn’t facing labor. My attitude had changed and I realized that I am not merely called to help or to simply work for these people, I am called to love them and even love the stupid self-serving, transparent politicians.
It’s a bit of an epiphany and I know it will sound strange to many who read this, but regardless of how it will make anyone feel, it happened today. This paradigm shift happened and in that shift from labor to love, I found strength to keep going.
Our tiny town meeting: