Living in another country and a much different environment will without a doubt take its effects on one’s body. For example, the only time I have tanned more deeply than now in Ghana is the time I spent three weeks in Corsica in the scorching 110 degree sun each day on the beach. I think I have gained some arm muscle from carrying buckets of water every day. And I have my share of new scars from trotro incidents and, of course, motorcycles. But the two things that I have noticed more than the others are my tougher hands and rougher knees, because they tell two evolving stories:
“Beautiful hands are those that work.” I have heard this phrase a few times, and I always know that it means that it is not the outer appearance of a hand that makes it beautiful but in the work that those hands perform. Good hands do good work. I have never been scared of work, but it would be unfair to say that back home I find myself doing all the work that I find myself doing in Ghana. And I don’t do the things that I would at home to “pamper” myself, mainly because other things seem more important to do instead. One of the things that I do here that I don’t do back home in the U.S. is wash all of my clothes by hand. It may not sound so bad until you thing about how much laundry one person can go through in a week—not to mention the jean, towels, and sheets terrain—and add some hot sun and it becomes a chore. But there’s also an art to it. You can’t scrub fingers against fingers or the skin will peel. You have to use the bottom of your palms to scrub. You have to scrub the neckline of a shirt then the armpits, and on from there. A friend of mine came to visit last month to cook with me, and was very surprised to see that I did my own laundry. She asked me if I was not worried about the callousness that might happen to my hands after awhile. I said no because after awhile, it’s not so hard, and it needs to be done. And I can do it. As my hands get tougher, I know they are telling the continued story of good work—the kind that one does to take care of oneself—better than my words sometimes can.
“Life is fragile. Handle with prayer.” I have gotten into the habit of going down on my knees to pray. Back in college I used to pray walking to class, quickly before I took an exam or turned in a paper, and many other times that seemed set in a backdrop of constant motion. Here, however, I have the chance to take more time-outs. I find myself meditating in prayer daily about my loved ones, finding breakthroughs in my work, health, lonely days, troubled spirits, wisdom, guidance, but most of all thankfulness for all the previously answered prayers and the patches of peace I can always find. So when I rub my hands over my knees and feel the gritty roughness from worn down carpets and sand and dust that escaped the broom, I am content. I am content because on my knees I feel closer to the earth and grounded. On my knees I remember that I need a little help to stand and walk.