April 2, 2023
Zambia: The Silence
Never in my life will I forget this moment - ever. The moment of sitting alone in the dirt, watching children as bright, beautiful, and brilliant as any others standing quietly in line, visibly malnourished, waiting to get their cup of daily porridge - likely the only source of nutrition they’ll consume today.
As they pile out of class and into a respectful, straight line, they receive their porridge and come to sit next to me, crouching, looking on with confusion and intrigue. One by one, they come, drawn by the weird white stranger, or perhaps by the lone tree that decorates their "courtyard". They come, they crouch, they eat.
Their porridge today runs hot. It may be due to a mix-up of the proportion of water to corn soy blend, but likely because the pot had to be watered down to feed an unexpected increase of children who came to school today. Sadly, or ideally, the serving of porridge in this region significantly increases attendance at school. This, a beautiful, ugly, incredibly sad yet ideal reality, defines the poorest regions of the poorest countries in which Mary's Meals operate and diligently serve.
The piping hot and watery texture of the porridge this morning, coupled with an influx of white strangers with cameras, has created a quieter, more reserved "lunch" time for these children. Bit by bit, they gather around me, blowing softly on their meal in hopes of cooling it down. The weather, a steamy 33 degrees Celsius, certainly isn't helping to get this food to a place where it can be drank. So, in the meantime, Mwape and Sylvia are using their fingers as spoons to avoid burning their mouth and tongue. Shada, on the other hand, is using a pencil to feed today while the porridge slowly cools.
I find myself sitting here, quietly, without much to say, something that doesn't happen often. The language barrier certainly isn't helping, but today my silence is a mix of purposefully soaking in this raw moment, whilst simultaneously trying to wrap my head around the inequities of the world, the heavy guilt I feel being here sitting next to the beautiful souls, and how unfair the world seems on this cloudy Thursday afternoon.