Our afternoons rarely go as planned.
In an attempt to encourage cleanliness, we bought a new trash can for our yard this weekend. The children leave a mess regularly, and our occasional afternoon clean up couldn’t keep up. And though there is a public trash can approximately three yards from our gate, we thought it was challenging to blame them if we didn’t provide a solution.
So we had a clean up party this afternoon. We brought the trash can out and planned to pick up trash, sweep the porch area, and head back inside. We had guests coming at seven, dinner to cook, snacks to prepare, and showers to be had.
But if nothing more, relationships without communication teach you a great deal of patience and flexibility.
And our half hour clean up turned into about three hours:
– We picked up trash, but also had to teach that the cards you still plan to use should not go into the trash can. The bag stays in the trash can. The trash goes in the bag, not under it. The lid is not a shield to be used in fighting matches. And yes, the motorbike is still off limits for touching.
– The pencil writings, crayon scribbles, and flower smears on our house are scrubbed off again. Well, all except one…
– Sweeping turned into breaking the broom and needing a new one, to be purchased at the store just down the way. Oh, but while Stephen is gone, Kelli is a perfect human jungle gym.
– As potted plants are moved for sweeping a ginormous ant nest is discovered just feet from our front door; something Kelli will not be able to sleep with. Ant chalk and ant spray are used in abundance, requiring the kids to be distracted on the the other side of the yard and encouraged to breathe the non-chemical air. Laughter ensues.
– Cilantro is planted for the third time, and is a community effort as usual–each child throws in a few seeds, many are on the floor.
– A visitor arrives to the neighborhood who knows English and Burmese, so Stephen is summoned for the conversation. We have a few moments to understand each other! We learn they’ve lost the key we gave them and feel terrible, but really appreciate us letting the kids play and allowing them to hide behind our house. We can communicate welcome and again reiterate the process of the garden: we work together, you can have the harvest! They are excited for the seeds we purchased this weekend, and a group is called over to help weed.
– A group comes over the to the yard and begins preparing the soil. The new trashcan becomes a bucket to transport weeds over the community; the weeds were laid down to help with the flooding and mud due to rainy season. The process of weeding everything and carting weeds takes nearly two hours. And if I may say, the young girls were amazing! There were a few twelve or thirteen year olds faithfully hoeing the weeds, and carting the bucket across the road loaded up on their shoulders.
– A little girl sneaks behind the back of the house to pee, somewhere in that little area where six people were hiding last week?! Hilarious.
And at the end of it all, we were so encouraged. More and more of the community are speaking with us, or attempting to. We are beginning to work together and to learn from each other. I’m continually amazed at how few names we know and yet how much time we spend playing games with them, cleaning up their messes, talking about them, praying for how to love them well, and taking each opportunity as it comes.
And the encouragement is welcomed.