Driving through the hills this weekend in our rented Rav4 on the way to Nyungwe National Park (one of the only rain forests to survive the last ice age) I couldn't stop thinking about how I was sitting in the front of a car while all around me hundreds of people were climbing up hills in bare feet on their way to market or their terraced tea plantains. What made it so that I was the one sitting in the car not the one out in the elements? And I realized so clearly, maybe really for the first time, that life is determined by one thing, that one thing is chance. It really is left to a coin toss it seems. Because I was born in America, in a hospital to a white middle class family, I am able to drive my Rav4 through the hills of Rwanda but the people we passed on the road were born in homes in southern Rwanda and so they spend much of their lives living and working and walking the land of their birthplace. It is all rather funny to me that the conditions in which we enter this world can be so different and based on nothing at all. I am feeling quite conflicted about it, what right do I have to receive a university education and live a privileged life--while my brothers and sisters here spend their days in the fields and fighting to afford an education? What makes me different? I am no different than my Rwandan countrymen but I have been born into a life where I have more opportunity and choice and complain when I do not get what I want, but why???
It was hammered home ever more today at work when I sat with one of my boys and listened to his concerns and hopes and fears. He is in secondary school and time is coming for him to return home but he is worried because there are problems at home. His father is very poor and unable to work and all this boy wants to do is to help (because family is everything here) while continuing his education. He is brilliant and he must continue to study (which the center will pay for) but there may not be food at home and his father has no means to support him. This boy could very well be in the United States or the upper-class of Rwanda where these problems do not exist but chance has landed him here; with hopes and dreams but a seemingly impossible road to reach them. He told me he wants to be a doctor. He is smart and hardworking, more than students I've encounter in the states. He is determined and strong-willed, more than anyone I know. But I couldn't help but think that this dream could very well not be possible, with the demands of his home and with very little to make this a reality. It broke me. In the US a child wants to be a doctor and so he becomes a doctor, but because the randomness of human existence put my boy here, where life is layers of complexities and circumstances, he may not become a doctor. Even with my tinge of doubts, I turned to him and told him he would become a doctor. He will be a doctor. I have to believe this because if I don't have hope how can I except anyone else to and hope is what keeps us alive.
Our world is complex and diverse and random and I'm just trying to make sense of it all. Ha! Who am I kidding, I suppose man has been trying to do that since the beginning.