Friday, October 18, 2013

Losing Things In Africa

Our goat ran away today. We had just bought it last week, a momma with a kid, and we haven't even settled on a name yet. Our house help thinks we are a little crazy to name a goat, but hey! We think it's fun. We were thinking the baby could be Kidzeru, Lamnso' for “it is true” and the mother could then be Kanga or something like that.

We have left an umbrella in a taxi (twice actually, only one was found), and I've lost a knit cap, probably in a taxi. I left my bag in a taxi once, but Isabelle, who was out running errands with me for what we call "a special day" with mom or dad, alerted me through tears that we left the bag in the trunk and I was able to track it down by sending a guy on a motorcycle to chase the taxi and bring the bag back. We've lost a couple of water bottles we had bought at REI before we left the States, and who knows what else we've lost.

My wife reminds me that we lose things all the time anyway, that this is no different. Still, the gravity of the loss seems greater here, more permanent, especially with the more important items. The knit cap, for instance, I had knit for my older brother, and when he died last year, I inherited the cap back from him. I have treasured it as a cozy and personal reminder of Ben. I was devastated when I noticed it was missing, and spent too much time in a fruitless effort to track it down. I guess the experience with the bag had given me hope.

Losing things is an opportunity to become more detached from material goods. We don't need those water bottles, though they are nice to have. We don't need an umbrella, though it is useful. I don't need that particular knit cap, though its emotional value is priceless.

Because our goat was missing, I spent a good part of the evening searching the campus, the pastoral center, the path to the bishop's house, the thicket below the path, new paths I had never trod before, and more.  I saw parts of the world just behind my house that I had never seen. I saw the same things I always see from a new perspective.  I got covered in burrs from the overgrown paths.

Coming out of the woods covered in burrs and branches, but still goatless, another teacher saw me come from behind her house and asked, "where are you coming from?" I explained my predicament, and she said that the goat has likely gone with the others. It will return in the evening. I told her it was a new goat, we just bought it, and it might not know its home yet. When did I buy it? Last week. Well, if it was yesterday, that would be different, she said, but a week and it will already be enough time. You can relax, it will come home.

Sure enough, when I arrived home, the goat had come back. Tomorrow we'll be sure to tie it better, but for now we're thankful that what was lost was found! I know I likely won't ever find my brother's hat.

Caps don't wander home at sunset. My goat was never truly lost, it knew the way home. In looking for it, I saw something new, and old things in new ways. Hopefully, for everything that is lost, we'll gain a little perspective.



  1. Grandmom used to fuss sometimes, about not wanting to use things (like china tea cups) for fear she'd break them.

    "They're only things," I'd remind her. If they break, I can get new things.

    I am sorry about your loss of the hat, though. That is the kind of thing that isn't replaceable.

    Love you all.