The Rains Down in Africa

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I seek to cure what's deep inside

… to learn what it's like to laugh with others despite not speaking the same language, to stand thousands upon thousands of miles from where you started and still be reminded of home ... to be in a place sacred to someone else's belief system and feel the power of it, even if it's not what you yourself practice.

My little family and I travel a ton, partly because Sam and I feel it's imperative our children experience as many different people and cultures as possible. We want them to really live in the world and get to know the people in it: to learn what it's like to laugh with others despite not speaking the same language, to stand thousands upon thousands of miles from where you started and still be reminded of home ... to be in a place sacred to someone else's belief system and feel the power of it, even if it's not what you yourself practice.

We believe education is crucial in helping raise kind, aware and responsible human beings and we're lucky enough to be able to have those experiences with them. 

This year's adventure took us to Africa.

Oh, man.

I was not prepared. 

It was so unbelievably wild and beautiful and awe-striking. Every minute. I kept having to remind myself it was REAL.

And as we eventually flew away from this amazing continent I realized it had changed the way I was seeing things. The way I was thinking of things. (Which is, of course, why we travel - but it's so easy to say it's for the kids when in reality it affects us as much as them.)

What I realized (and perhaps this seems small but it felt life-changing for me) was that I had spent my life viewing cheetahs and lions and leopards (insert any animal here) within my own point of view - seeing them in zoos, reading books about them, watching them on television. I thought I understood what they were. The power of them. The essence. I knew what they ate, how they lived, I had seen them up close (albeit through glass or pictures or movies).

But then I saw them. I saw them out where they belong, where they are from. I saw them IN CONTEXT and everything changed. Everything shifted. Suddenly, by opening myself up to being where they were I viewed them in a completely different way. Yes, some of what I thought I knew before still held true... but even that felt colored slightly differently.

My own knowledge and experience (even though it was well-informed in many ways) paled in comparison. 

Seeing these amazing animals out in their own environments: living their lives as they were meant to, in the places they were meant to... it changed what I thought I knew. How I saw. How I felt. 

And I realized this is so much bigger than just seeing a lion on the Serengeti. It touches everything. My experience is fortunate and relatively well-informed overall, I am well-educated and live with an incredible amount of privilege across the board... and it colors how I see things in my life. How I define things. How I understand them. That's okay. But I'm trying harder now to purposely open myself up to truly seeing outside the context of what I think I know. Of how I know it. And to try not to limit the possibility of what's around me by my own point of view. 

I was struck with how little I really knew about what I saw. How much I filled the details in with assumptions fueled by my own experience. I felt humbled at all the knowledge I truly lacked. I try to look around me more now, even here in my home. I try to really see those around me and take the time to hear their stories, truly listen. Understand the context. I try to stop filling in my own details because I know better, or think I do. It’s lazy. What I have found, is when you stop to truly pay attention the world becomes even bigger, even more wondrous. That standing in a place of not-knowing, of avid and genuine curiosity had brought me to the best place of all.

A place where I feel more connected. More a part. More empowered to create change.

There is so much grace and power and beauty in this world. We often dampen it, make it smaller, so it fits within our lives, our experience, how we have defined our environments and those around us. I want to strive now to meet this grand world where it is, how it is meant to be more often instead.

Misty Bell Stiers