Normal does not mean good

3 11 2009

As the sun starts to dip in the sky, I feel the heat of the day offer a parting nod before retiring for the night. This is my favorite time of day. No matter what side of the world I am on the air seems to present a reassuring quiet as afternoon slowly slips into evening.

We are driving away from Chongwe, and I take a deep breath and drink in as much of the breeze and the sunset and the African plane stretching before me as I can. This is the last time I’ll be making this trek. I had, just minutes before, said goodbye to the kids knowing that I won’t make it out here again before I go home. It was so sad, but I was, at the same time, so insanely happy for the opportunity I had to spend time with them.

When we got there today all of the older boys were standing in a line stretching. They had crafted a football (soccer) field and were completing a regimented warm-up routine. The younger kids watched from the sidelines and shrieked with glee as they attempted to mimic all of the boys’ actions. As they run laps, I joined the cheering squad and started an impromptu game. We danced and sang and ran around while enjoying a good laugh about nothing in particular.

When the match finally started, it quickly became evident that they didn’t actually have a ball. Kids here fashion balls out of plastic bags. This one also included some string – so by Zambian standards it was pretty high-tech.

I’ve been trying to start a mental shift as I get ready to go home, and a lot of my thoughts have been focused on preparing to return to “normal” life. It’s crazy to realize that my normal looks nothing like most of the rest of the world. My normal says I want things now. My normal refuses to be inconvenienced or to entertain any state of discomfort. My normal says I deserve to be at ease. My normal says if I want something I should have it. My normal says I should do what I can to make sure I’m happy. My normal says I should do what I can to get ahead. My normal is all about me.

But there is nothing that makes my normal better. And there is certainly nothing about it that makes it right. Normal does not mean good. I think I regularly confuse the two; I think a lot of us regularly confuse the two.

My normal says a ball made out of plastic bags isn’t good enough – it’s unworthy of a second thought. But a ball made out of plastic bags did the trick today. A ball made out of plastic bags was teaching kids initiative and leadership and teamwork. And a ball made out of plastic bags was bringing joy.

It’s easy to say, “Well, yeah, that’s good enough for them. It’s good enough for there. But things are different here.” Which is true – things are different. We have a different standard. But that doesn’t make it right or good or even worthwhile.

It’s easy to do what’s normal, but what does that accomplish? I think normal breeds complacency and apathy and self-righteousness. I too often let it cloud my vision and convince me that there is value where there is in fact none.

It’s an interesting thought-process to traverse as my time here comes to an end. A range of emotions wash over me as I react to the thoughts swimming in my head. It’s hard to describe. So tonight I’ll simply watch another African sunset. I’ll let that be my normal. I’ll let that be good.


high knees


part of the cheering squad




waiting for the match to start


some of the little guys decided to run laps, too




playing "do it like i do"


they do crazy dance moves and this is all i can come up with for my turn 🙂


they have mad skills


the ball


about to score




2 responses

3 11 2009

Wow this is such a deep post…I love it! You are so right, Normal is not always good. It is these deep internal perspectives that lead to discovery. Discovery that the world is bigger than me and you… MUCH RESPECT! STAY UP, WAY UP!

4 11 2009

Amy girl, praying for you as you say your good-byes. Praying that the deep things of God that you’ve experienced there will always cling to you and be the sweet aroma of Christ wherever He takes you next. With love, Lenae

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