It is difficult to come back and have to write an article about the habits of Southwestern badgers. The Congolese refugees are still shivering and hungry in cramped tents, still without a country, still totally unsure of their futures. Kingston, the Malawian man we met in Diepsloot, is still missing the family he hasn’t seen in two years. Victor, our guide, is still treading the line between optimism and frustration with his sometimes violent community. Xenophobia is still festering; thugs still lurk around displacement camps, ready to attack foreigners who dare step outside to buy groceries or check email. It’s Wednesday night (if you don’t consider the time difference), when residents of Diepsloot sing and pray in the tent that serves as their church, and Pastor Eddie delivers impassioned sermons.
I’m not going to say I will never take anything for granted again, because I know from experience that’s not how the human mind works. It can’t sustain that kind of perspective. It adjusts, it gets complacent, even when you don’t want it to. I know I will never forget Moses and the Congolese families, Victor, Kingston, and all the amazing people we met. I know we will do everything we can to do them justice. It’s frustrating that we can only make people aware of their situation and can’t really do anything directly to help them. It’s like standing on a shore watching someone drown.
Now when I hear news from Africa, it will feel more personal, because it will be happening to people like the people we’ve met. But then I consider what that means: that there are people with equally amazing stories, enduring suffering with the same grace and hope, all over the world—in Burma and Rwanda and Afghanistan and, yes, even Arizona. And I feel both privileged to be a journalist and deeply overwhelmed.