Tomorrow the next chapter of the adventure begins. Our life with south Sudan was irrevocably joined together, not by choice but by some kind of human draw. Our very first trip all those years ago was all about locating slaves and leading them to freedom; ironically, it inevitably became about finding each other.
I have often stated in these blog posts that I have learned to just follow Jane and trust her instincts. On that very first trip, as I struggled philosophically with the true meaning of modern slavery, Jane was actually out there liberating them. It was a harrowing trip, but a new kind of awareness emerged in those remarkable days: we each required the other if our individual journeys were to be successful. The yearning to help humanity in deeper ways together happened on that trip.
Everybody was talking about slavery, debating and moralizing about it. Yet we woke up on that very first morning in Sudan feeling more like Alice in her Wonderland: “No. No! The adventure first, explanations take such a long time.” We each had known separately that humanitarianism was worth everything we gave to it, but on that trip we discovered that it was better accomplished through the joining of our own talents and outlooks. It was, in fact, the romance of humanity. We learned that sometimes reality is a human construct – an illusion, and that truth really exists in those recesses of the human heart that so few people see.
On that trip, with slaves freed, friendships made, and ultimately a future formed, we both understood that real travel only becomes a true adventure when you leave yourself behind and become dwarfed by the sheer magnitude of humanity.
Over the years that romance has only expanded. Along the way there was the blooming of love, more slaves liberated, a long civil war brought to an end, our deepest hopes realized, and three remarkable children that taught us our dreams were not yet complete.
I often wonder at the human penchant for people of material substance to strut their blessings as though they are some kind of brand for success, while the majority of the world’s people stoop beneath the burden of their own responsibilities. Through the course of my lifetime I have met people so wealthy that whenever they didn’t like what was going on around them – the weather, the economy, politics, jilted love – they hopped on their first-class transport to sunnier climates. But Sudan has taught us of the sheer nobility of those who refuse to give up even when the world seems to be against them. They fight for their villages, their children, for survival, and even for their country. They are the true nobility of humanity and the vast majority of them live on next to nothing each day.
It’s as Tolkien wrote in The Hobbit: “I am looking for someone to share in an adventure and it’s very difficult to find anyone.” “I should think so – in these parts,” came the reply. “We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things. Make you late for dinner.”
Well, Jane has been late for dinner her entire life. She pours herself out for those who have nothing, and deals with the deep humanity of her mate undergoing a serous operation. To touch her is to touch humanity and to feel its expanse – the height and depth, length and breadth of it.
I wish, like all of us, to be effective in life. But I have learned that the real inspiration of adventure is in meeting people who make me feel like I have done little. Jane does that to me, as do some of the great figures in history. Far from discouraging me, they elevate my expectations, teaching me that being fully human is something I can yet still strive for. In any great romance, each person plays a key part that the other really likes. I love Jane’s part, but more than that I respect it – deeply, and I always wish to pay deference to it.
Tomorrow we leave home – again. Yet, as with every other occasion, we will acknowledge that true adventure can’t exist without home – children, work, friends, faith, and community. If we had no place to return to, we would just be nomads – endlessly travelling with nowhere to land. It is actually having a home community that permits us to measure ourselves and our growth following our adventures. Sometimes having compassion for a people far away struggling in slavery, war and depravity is easier than caring for those we have known at home for years. This is not our wish, and our journeys will only be successful as humanity expands in London as easily as in Sudan.
As a writer, I feel somewhat akin to the observation of Jean-Paul Sartre: “For an occurrence to become an adventure, it is necessary and sufficient for one to recount it.” This is why I write about it, because it’s a narrative worth telling. Jane and I have discovered that a humanity paired is a powerful thing, in part because of how it draws us together as partners in confronting the world’s pain and injustice. That’s a romance I couldn’t live without.
Note: We return near the end of January and the blogs will resume at that time. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.