I woke up this morning to the sound of the very loud and frankly quite annoying generator. No power. Again. It happens all the time. Perks of living in a Ugandan city I guess. But you get used to it. And I have so much. I am rich. But most of all, I am free.
I woke up with the thought this morning. Realising I have a gift that many in this world don’t have. I am free. I get to drive a car around in a strange, yet beautiful country with my sister. Food in the back of the car. A bit of saved cash in my pocket. A phone playing our favourite songs. Ultimate feeling of freedom.
Last night I watch Beauty and the Beast with my sister. Her fourth time. I hadn’t seen it yet. My laptop gave up before we saw the end, but still, one quote got me thinking.
Beast – “You could stay here. You could be happy.”
Belle – “Can anyone be happy if they aren’t free?”
As I am writing this blog, I open a news page. A picture of a guy stares at me. Apparently, another terrorist attack happened in Europe. Barcelona this time. My first thought is: “Lord, have mercy.” Then the other thought about freedom follows. Again, what does it mean to be free?
Is it different today than it was 200 years ago? It’s not just about Barcelona. Or about Charlottesville.
Especially now that I am reading a really good novel by Colson Whitehead called The Underground Railroad. It tells the story of a young woman that flees her plantation somewhere in the deep South in the early 19th century. It brings up questions about what it means to be free. Even if you manage to flee from slavery in the literal sense, will you ever be really free in your mind when your tormentors follow you in your dreams, your memories and your shadows?
Somewhere today, when I was handing out chapati’s to 200+ slum kids, reading stories to children in a Primary 4 at a community school and holding a sleeping baby, I realised that freedom has a lot to do with relationships and choices. Who do you relate to? And what choices do you make in that relationship? Do you set others free? Free to learn, to grow, to spread their wings. But also freedom of the power they might have over you. Freedom in forgiving, learning to love your enemies, your nightmares and your darkest places.
Freedom isn’t an easy thing. It’s challenging and tough. I realise that being free is so much more than just a gift. It’s labour. It’s hard work. Yet worth every drop of blood, sweat and tears.
“Freedom was a community laboring for something lovely and rare.”
Colson Whitehead – The Underground Railroad