The death of Whitney Houston shocked the United States this week. I am lucky enough to be in the United States to watch the news and star tributes after her untimely death at the age of 48. I arrived in Washington, DC on February 4th. I will return to Botswana sometime within the next month. Since I have not written about this trip, I will address it briefly before I get back to Whitney.
Peace Corps supports its volunteers in many ways. As you can imagine, many things happen to volunteers during service. They can become lonely, depressed and disenchanted with their work. Some volunteers actually become injured. People break all sorts of bones, deal with sprains and other ailments. Sometimes medical issues (including those related to mental health) can be dealt with while the volunteer is at site. Sometimes, the volunteer needs to be transported somewhere in his/her region or back to DC to heal. Many volunteers are frustrated that they have to postpone time at their site to heal a broken leg or get an operation. Others are given the option to come to DC after they have become a victim of a crime--to get whatever support they need in order to carry on their service. The latter is what happened to me.
I do not wish to get into details on this blog. I am not physically hurt and I will be absolutely fine. That being said, I chose the option to come to DC and work through some things necessary in order for me to continue my service in Shoshong in the way that I want. You must help yourself before you can help others. That is what I chose to do.
Throughout this entire process, Peace Corps has been amazingly supportive of me. I thank PC staff in Botswana for their flexibility to support me in the ways that I needed. I am grateful for all of the emails and facebook posts of my family and friends in Botswana and in the states, who have helped me make the decision to come back for some R&R. I am happy that I have already been able to see my parents and some friends in the states. That has been amazing. I thank my local friends in Shoshong who listened to my needs and acted accordingly. And I have felt unwavering support from the Office of Medical Services in DC as well as other volunteers from around the globe who have also been Med Evac'd.
I look forward to returning to Botswana. And when I do so, I will be able to reflect on this experience more fully.
Until then, I want to talk about a woman I greatly admire: Whitney Houston. Listening to her music represents an essential part of my childhood, like the Beatles and the Everly Brothers.
For those of you are not familiar with her music, she was originally a church gospel singer from New Jersey discovered by a famous record producer named Clive Davis. She was a huge star in the 1980s and 1990s especially, known for her larger-than-life voice. Some of her most famous songs are from the movie "The Bodyguard."
My favorite album of hers is pictured left: Whitney.
Of course those who are at the top have the farthest to fall, and that was true with Whitney. She was plagued with a rocky marriage, drug and alcohol addiction throughout the 2000s. Regardless, she was loved by all for her talent, attitude and infectious spirit.
When I was in the PC Building a couple days ago, I noticed a photo spread of notable African Americans. I was talking to the security guard, telling her that we should put Whitney up there. She said, "A drug addict? I don't think so." I was taken aback because Whitney means so much more to me, as she does to so many others.
I said to the guard, "That's sad." She agreed with me. I smiled and continued, "No. I mean, it's sad that you feel that way." The guard said, "Well, that is how she is going to be remembered." I countered, "No, I don't think so. There are many aspects to a person."
It was indeed sad to me that this woman would look at Whitney Houston and simply see a drug addict.
We can learn so much about ourselves from our interactions with others. This dialogue reminded me how easy it is to judge other people and forget that we may have similar struggles. And if we somehow are able to overcome those struggles, are we to judge those who have a harder time? I sure hope not.
Once a good friend of mine reminded me of this quote by Plato, and I like to remember it often: "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle."