The Golden Moments

by - 8:55 PM

On this wintry night, I cannot fall asleep because I have a terrible runny nose and sore throat. The smog of winter’s burning bukhari heaters (local Afghan wood or coal-fueled heating) in the month of December has afflicted everybody with a wracking cough. I roll out of bed groaning and shuffle to the kitchen to cook up some hot soup. Then I settle into my easy chair and switch on the lamp to read.

I am re-reading a book I’ve read many years ago when I was a teenager: Left to Tell by Imaculee Ilibagiza, a survivor’s memoir of radical faith and forgiveness during and in the aftermath of the Rwandan genocide of 1994. Now that I have been to Rwanda four times, I feel a sense of knowing and deep love. Back then, when I read these crazy autobiographies of far-flung places, I would be especially drawn to the countries of Rwanda, Afghanistan and South Sudan. Now as I read this book again, I look up to the ceiling and talk to God (as I usually do when I reach a poignant thought in my readings): Why do I so love these places, God? Especially Rwanda, especially Afghanistan, and especially South Sudan? What is it about them that makes me feel a rush of excitement, love, and affection?

I pause for an answer in the midnight silence. I feel that one of the reasons is because these are nations and peoples that have experienced deep violations from war and genocide, and a spirit of orphanhood or fatherlessness in both the biological and spiritual sense plagues them. For as long as I can remember, I have always feel a deep compassion and sensitivity towards those who are fatherless and motherless, towards those who have experienced trauma or loss. A piercing and unexpected thought from God came to me: It is because you feel My heart for these countries. That’s a little taste of how I feel toward them. My love, my compassion, my deep affection for these peoples. I have placed it in you, especially, for them. 

Silent tears welled up in my eyes. What a privilege it is to receive this word. I feel because I am human, but also because I am a daughter of God. I have a direct link to His heart.

God brought to my mind the faces of my students from the day’s studio music recording session at work. Myself and another junior faculty teacher Amin* was in charge of rehearsing and recording a song called “World On Our Shoulders” with a small choir of junior students singing, along with myself on the piano, and an ensemble of Afghan traditional instruments accompanying. Despite the challenges of limited studio facilities in Kabul and the pressures that students face in daily life here, I remember there were moments of laughter when we listened to the playback of the children singing and I exclaimed, “Oh you all sound so sweet and cute!”
Right now as I recall that picture of happiness and smiles, tears roll down my cheeks because it means so much for me to be here at this time of my life to behold precious moments like these. I call them the “golden moments”, forever etched in my mind’s eye. It was especially beautiful for me to see the genuine expression of my junior faculty colleague when he smiled at the young students with so much affection in his eyes toward them.

Amin* has only been teaching as a junior teacher this year, since he graduated from Grade 14 as a trumpet player last year. I taught him piano as a second instrument, and he was one of the senior students who had an eagerness to learn how to teach well. This year he often consulted me for advise and ideas on how to better run his junior music classes and choir. It is such a privilege to work with young people who have a strong conviction to serve, to show love in a harsh environment, and to rebuild their nation. A wellspring of deep joy bubbles to the surface of my heart when I see such authenticity and kindness from a young man. In the difficult circumstances our students live in, it is especially memorable to witness glimpses of joy, humility and goodwill. These golden moments sustain me, and will remain with me always, reminding me at important times (and midnight hours such as tonight) about why I choose to be in these places against all odds and obstacles.

[Cover Photograph: Afghan Mobile Mini Circus.]

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