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Stories of Senegal


Posted by Shannon Colwin on

Compared to those living in the bush of Senegal many of us in the U.S. live safe, comfortable, yes, even opulent lives.

I am re-reading a little book entitled Liturgy of the Ordinary, selected as Christianity Today's 2018 Book of the Year, in which the author selects ordinary moments in her life and turns them into spiritual moments.  If you have read the book With, by Skye Jethani, LOTO is a good practical companion. A few pages at a time will do.

This past week I have been slowly reading a chapter entitled "eating leftovers" in which the author discusses a number of things related to meals including physical vs spiritual nourishment, but the little passage that has most profoundly affected me thus far is one in which she discusses the profound gift of a very simple meal - leftover taco soup:

"In these leftovers, I'm surrounded by almost unimaginable abundance.  Here, on my table, is a steaming symbol of my astounding privilege - so much taco soup that we could not eat it all and were able to keep it for days because through a process I can't even comprehend, humans discovered electricity and found that compressed tetrafluoroethane gas running through coils can keep food at just the right temperature for its maximal preservation.  This abundance, the sheer amount and variety of food and the ability to keep it for days, would astound much of  the world and most people throughout history.  But I have been dulled to the wonders before me. I take this nourishment for granted."

After reading this little passage I thought back to my first meal in a Senegalese village. (A photo of it is attached.)  Evening was upon us and those in the village of Dioutki wanted to make sure we were fed, so they shared with us their feast for the night.  Typically, most meals in the bush consist of three bowls of boiled millet a day.  On a good day there may be a few vegetables or some hard boiled eggs or a bit of meat or fish in the bowl for the evening meal.  On this particular evening our friends in Dioutki served not just boiled millet but millet with sour goat's milk poured over the top - a feast.  A year later I was wandering around Godel early one morning and stumbled into a compound in which a family was having their breakfast - a bowl of boiled millet which they were eating with their hands.  They invited me to stay so I sat on the ground and joined them.  

The morning I read this passage and thought back to that first meal in Dioutki I fixed myself my breakfast - a bowl of granola with almonds, bananas, blueberries and blackberries. It was not only nutritious but wonderfully flavorful and delightful to look at.  A simple meal but one I have no business taking for granted.  And yet I do, day after day.

We too are amazingly privileged.  We have so much, and yet it is so easy to take our abundance for granted.  One of the sweet things for me about going back to the village is getting reminded of the need for gratitude in my life.  Taking a "shower" in the village, going to the bathroom, even eating a very good meal, these remind me of the abundance in my life, the need to think from time to time about all I have been given and then thank the One who has provided so much.   

For those of us reading this who are going to Senegal in a few weeks, don't miss out on the opportunities the trip presents to open your eyes to the abundance we have by participating as fully as you can in village life, as uncomfortable as it may be.  When you come back home you may just see the little things in your life a bit differently.


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