“This is my time to chill and drink juice.”
I couldn’t help but smile. This is probably my favourite line of a song I don’t even know the title of. If I had listened to this particular line a year or two ago, I would have raised an eyebrow in confusion; but not today. I perfectly understand. Chill and drink juice.
I remember one of the most hilarious conversations of the year (I almost wrote “ever” but that would be me stretching it just a tiny bit). Anyway, some time ago I went to pay an aunt of mine a visit, Aunty Mosun; and spent most of the time conversing with her husband, Uncle Muyiwa. I enjoyed myself tremendously. Uncle Muyiwa is a very educated and enlightened Christian; a man full of wisdom and understanding. A man at whose feet I love sitting, drawing water from his well of insight and knowledge. Our unofficial topic of discussion was love within the home.
You see, my cousin had run away from home. I was still in Shanghai, China (summer 2011) when I found out, and it broke my heart. I cried a lot. I wished to return. I felt helpless. Over a year on, and he is still on the streets. Anyway, so there we were, discussing the reasons that drive children, teenagers, or young adults away from home. No matter how small, uncomfortable or inconvenient living-conditions may be, as (African) sons and daughters we are raised to deal with it. I wouldn’t call it suffering and smiling per-se, but it really is one of those things you just have to put up with if you must; especially when you live in London and every square meter counts (pounds). You have no other choice. Or do you? Well, my cousin thought he did..
Now, uncle Muyiwa and I both believed that one does not just run away because one needs more space. Space is important, but love draws people close(r). I looked around their small one-bed room apartment. Aunty, Uncle, Nifemi and Taiwo and Kehinde; they had all been sleeping in just one bedroom. Sure, it was big enough for a king-sized bed and a bunk-bed, but it was a small room nonetheless. Their spacial closeness could be seen in their day-to-day interaction. The 6-year-old climbing unto her father’s shoulders, the 4-year-old twins fighting like soldiers, and their mother sitting down, shaking her head laughing. It was time to make dinner.
I watched them, smiling. Maybe it’s more fun when one is younger. Sharing beds and clothes; rooms and one’s entire being with others: family. Things change when one gets older, grows up. One needs space, privacy, peace and quiet. No? He disagreed; and he took me back in time.
When Mosun and I married, we moved into a room. No, not a one-bedroom flat, but just one room. There wasn’t much in it: a mattress, a small tv, and some bags with clothes. We shared the kitchen and bathroom with neighbours. At night we would naturally share our bed; a single mattress (he gestured with his hands how wide and flat it had been). But it was okay; we never complained. We loved each other and so we didn’t need much space. You see, if there is love, you don’t mind closeness. Then, we really didn’t have money. You see the way you people here eat eggs? Hahaha.. then, it was only when she sent money back I could afford to eat them; treat myself just once in a while. Or see the way you guys drink juice? Hahaha.. the first time I actually bought juice. Oh, my friends loved coming to my place then. It’s not like here.. I offer you juice and you say “No, thanks” that you’re okay with water. Juice? No, I’d buy a pack and have in at home for a month or even two. I would open it only if there was a special guests of a celebration. Here, you guys take these things for granted. Not me. Not we, because I remember where I come from. So you see, whether one has much or little; a room is big enough for a family to live in if it is filled with love; but if there is no love, not even a 5-storey-house will contain a family. Love makes all the difference.
And there it was. I agreed with almost all of what he said. All but the “drinking juice”-part. I could not agree with it because I simply could not relate to it. But what I did understand was the fact that there are many things I take for granted, simply because they present the norm to me. Things such as clean running spring-water, constant electricity, available heating when it is needed, and food in the fridge. The fact that I can go shopping whenever I want to (even-though I often cannot because of poor money management) or at the very least do some window-shopping. The fact that I can leave the house without fear of imminent danger, can serve the Lord without having to fear being persecuted, am financially (and in many other ways) supported by family and the wonderful system I have been blessed to have been born into. Oh, and the fact that I never have to worry about my “legal stay” or the fact that I am permitted and indeed able to travel wherever and whenever I want to. Many of my friends have been deported before; some more than just once; while I have others who stress over having the Visas renewed or fret over having to return back home. I suffer none of that. These are things I appreciate, don’t get me wrong, but I am used to.
However, as great a blessing as all this may sound, there are many areas of my life in which I struggle. My worries may not be “that life-threatening” in your eyes, but they are still very real to me anyway. Sometimes I feel my world fall apart because I cannot afford a Frappuccino at Starbucks or a Hummingbird red velvet cupcake. On other days I feel life is unfair because I struggle with my singleness and/or the fact that I do not have as many devoted friends as I used to have. Once in a while I feel sorry for myself because my sexual needs are not/ cannot be met or ovulation tried to get the better of me. There a days when I feel like it is time for me to move out of my parents’ house again; where the need to finally settle down and be independent is extremely strong. Days when I feel like I have tried enough and deserve some goodness (merit being my sheer existence), or days on which I simply wish to sleep and dream of a better tomorrow.
I don’t really mind such days, as the Lord was as smart as to create me with an in-built self-encouragement system. Yes, on these days I remind myself of the sweet taste of Frappuccinos and red velvet cupcakes. I might not enjoy them today, but I have before and (God willing) I shall again. I remind myself of the fact that I have been loved before and- although I am no one’s object of affection right now- I shall be loved again. I remind myself of His promises for my life and thank Him in advance. I have a lot to look forward too. I thank Him all the more for the few friends I have. Friends I love, friends that are loyal, friends that can be annoying, but friends that are real. I thank Him for the fact that none of my loved ones have passed away, and although I sometimes wish to be independent, I especially thank Him for my parents (and siblings too) who have been a tremendous blessing and source of strength and support to me too. I thank Him for the grace to remain abstinent and, even when I am weak, the prevailing power of the blood.
You see, no matter how bad things are or seem to be getting, there is always so much to be thankful for. I might not (yet) have it all, I might not ever get there, but I thank Him for where I am. He sure has brought me a mighty long way. Chances are, He has you too! Sometimes we are so caught up, focusing on that which we lack, that we forget to be grateful for the many blessings we do have. We take many things for granted, and feel life has dealt very unfairly and harshly with us.
Maybe it’s time to chill and drink juice. There are many things you once prayed for, that you enjoy today. Don’t take these things for granted! Many blessings that have come your way but are now gone, simply because you failed to recognize them and Him as The Giver of it all. I can well imagine how grateful my uncle still feels today- for every egg he boils and devours or pack of juice he opens and drinks. It was not always possible.
Today and for the rest of our lives, let’s take some time to chill, drink juice, and appreciate the little things of life.. Happy Thanksgiving!