I prefer the latter
It is perhaps a paradox to say I prefer ‘discomfort’, because by definition discomfort is something you don’t like. The dictionary talks of unease, anxiety and pain. But the notion of doing something that might cause you those things at first, while giving you joy on a deeper level, is not new. We all know that studying real hard for something can be rewarding; or working on a business, a career, a child’s education, on something that we really really want – a toned body! But there are people who champion this concept on a whole other level.
For example, there’s my friend Renett, who is paraplegic. She suffers from spinal muscular atrophy and hasn’t been able to get out of bed for the past 10 or more years. But she earns a living from her bed, where she is connected to the internet and the phone. And despite barely being able to move without help and great pain, her online and tele-businesses pay for 9 (!) employees.
It was her 50th birthday the other day. She’s one of the oldest living people in the world with her condition. In her birthday speech, which she gave from her bed, she didn’t speak about the many times she’s been at death’s door, or her recent breast cancer attack. She spoke about her blessings and God’s grace. And the one thing she said, that hit me like dynamite after all the physical ‘hell’ I’ve seen her go through, was: “if I had a choice between the life I’ve had and another life, I’d chose this life again.” And then, “Nothing good ever comes easy”.
I’ve learned a little bit about leaving your comfort zone in order to grow. But this really inspired me. So the other day I invited the parents of the children who come to my children’s class to a themed dinner-party. The theme was “the fast” and our group was really diverse. We had the parents of the children, who are all domestic workers and gardeners, we had a soap opera actress, a radio DJ, a PHD student, a beautician, a former Robben Island prison-inmate and two engineers. We were black, white, Christian, Moslem, Baha’i. It was nuts. I was nervous inviting this crowd. It’s not “easy”. It’s “easier” to invite my closest friends, the ones who look and think like me. The ones who have my level of education, similar life experiences and similar bank statements. The ones I can kick back with. But it’s not as “easy” to invite a crowd that’s different. At first…
Baha’u’llah says that our very diversity is what makes unity so special. It’s the fact that we all look and think differently, that makes us rich when we come together and share and consult. The more diverse we are, the more complete we are. And that kept guiding me as I made my food, lit the candles and played myPutamayo collection for good atmosphere.
And mind you it wasn’t easy for them either. Take the domestic workers, for example. They were so flabbergasted to have me serve them food, to see Ryan, a man (!) of the house, serve them and wash dishes! To sit with a soap opera star, to eat strange food, to have no beer, to listen to crazy nut-heads like myself talking about unity and then hear people sharing their views on the significance of fasting from a Baha’i/Moslem/Christian/political perspective…And yet they came. And their initial discomfort turned into joy as did mine. Last night they came over again and we’re starting a study circle together now.
Inspired by these recent happenings, I decided to pester my neighbor again, the lady who lives next door and has some reservations about the new South Africa. She’s agreed to shoot for coffee on Friday. After I break the ice, I might invite her to one of my colorful parties and ask her to dance!
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