someone who uses the expression ‘life-transforming” very sparingly
because very few things in life are. Change is something that requires
constant effort and constant practice. It doesn’t come cheaply.
I will use the expression to describe what I did today, Thanksgiving
2009. As a volunteer with my good friend Glen Megill’s organization, Rock of Africa,
I travelled to Zimbabwe, one of the poorest country’s on earth to one
of it’s poorest villages. I, together with my daughter Chana, Glen, and
his team, did an outreach program preparing a Thanksgiving feast for
500 villagers and then distributed sixty mosquito nets and Bibles. The
feast consisted of ten slaughtered goats and giant pots of cooked
cabbage and a corn-flower mixture which is eaten throughout Africa.
I cannot begin to describe what it was like. It will take me a while but here are some immediate impressions.
The people were gentle, beautiful, and utterly poor. The entire
village is built of mud huts, the Chief’s home included. G-d were they
thankful. They have nothing, no material possessions. They live in tiny
pen-sized huts. But they smile and they exhibit unbelievable warmth.
Young mothers and fathers seemed absent. So many have died from
AIDS. We saw scores of young children strapped to their grandmother’s
back in the African way. It was devastating to see an entire generation
The children could not have been more polite and better behaved.
Hundreds of them sat in rows on the floor. They ate every part of the
plate we served before them. I’m talking the stomach, the intestines,
the vertebrae. They were thrilled to have a warm meal with meat. The
children sang for us and danced.
The women were even more lively. Each ate with their hands which
were washed just before the meal. There is no running water in the
village and water is fetched from a well nearly a mile away.
The men and women sat apart. When the women, my daughter included,
served them they curtsied, as women do by tradition before men. If a
woman does not curtsy the man will not accept the food. All were moved
and delighted by the feast that was put before them.
The most moving part of the day was when we distributed corn seeds
for the families. These bags costs just $25 each. But they sustain a
family for a year. The Chief called out names of the lucky people and
they came forward for the seed. They were glowing. Many of them kissed
the bags as they picked them up. If a bag opened and some of the seeds
fell on the ground, the people picked up every last seed as if each was
We have much to learn from these people. The Chief exhibited a rare
humility, even though he adjudicates the life of 350 homesteads.
I learn about true thanksgiving today. Thankful to G-d that I live
in a country that does have this level of poverty, and thankful to G-d
that I met so many of his beautiful children today in a totally remote
corner of the world where I hope that my assisting them in being fed
today will lead them to a year of abundance and blessing.
Written very quickly and with barely any communications tools. So
please forgive any errors. Go to Shmuley.com and see pictures and video
of the African service trip.