There are several ways to be hurt by another.
There are several ways to hurt another.
And both options have elements you can control and elements you have to accept.
I have too often seen the necessity of acceptance here in Rwanda.
Muzungus come in and out of Kigali like middle-schoolers at the mall. This is the place to be. Kids still in university come “to do research” over the summer. Kids newly graduated come out for their first job in hopes that one in a developing country will be more meaningful than joining their peers as office assistants in the U.S. (yeah, yeah, yeah I’m on one of them too…) Middle-aged providers who’ve lost their jobs (thank you U.S. economy) are here as “missionaries” serving God in one of the thousands of churches/schools/orphanages here. And of course the city is littered with U.N. Tribunal Officials, WFP, World Bank, and a myriad of other IGO/NGO do-gooders. Plus all the diplomatic staff… I digress. The point is, the poor Rwandans have to deal with all kinds of high and mighty white people who know what is best and nurse their attitudes of righteous anger at whatever injustice they perceive to be happening at the moment. This means that plenty of Rwandans come into the line of fire of some angry white person who can’t take the culture, the food, the injustice, or whatever the hell it is they are mad at.
Accusations are thrown. Threats are made. And excuses are attempted. But when someone throws an accusation, he cannot be wrong. So the poor person on the other side can either defend his ego and control of the situation, or he can accept the accusation and go on with his day.
An attitude that is the unfortunate remnant of years of living “beneath” another person (the white colonizers, yes.)
However, it is also a skill that comes in real handy for avoiding unnecessary conflict. Conflict can often be very helpful. Without it, there is no reason to challenge ourselves and grow. However, when it is a conflict of wills, someone has to be a clear winner. Under it all, the person who swallows his pride and says ‘yeah it’s my fault’ is the winner.
So here’s to all of you I have watched stand down in a conflict of wills. (Especially impressive because the culture here reeks of me-first: making any kind of commute an absolute joy.) Because after all, what do we get for being “right”, or being first anyway? Even after all the pushing and shoving, we all have to wait on the bus for the driver to decide to go.