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  • Lorraine Johnson

[109] In The Deep Breath

I met a kind man in 1991. He had travelled across a large swath of land in Mozambique some years before, stepping over the borderline of conflict into a certain peace in the country of Zimbabwe. He was looking for safety and found himself in the confines of a refugee camp, alongside hundreds of other Mozambicans seeking the same. He didn't want to have to be there, and yet he couldn't turn around, as I.

It was a refugee camp where children and their mothers greeted you with smile, song and dance, though life was hard, the camp barely a home, and a place on foreign soil that did not provide all.

Firewood was one of those things to be searched for. When he first arrived he would leave the compound and not have to walk too far, but it slowly got more difficult as trees were removed. The walks longer, the land drier, as he looked for something, a small tree, bush, a twig to turn into a bundle to light the cold nights and cook the food of the day.

He started to encounter Zimbabweans also looking for firewood. But it was their land, they said. And they were angry. And in that simple act of survival, another conflict was born. And they both had needs and they both had reason. Yet the answer was in plain sight—in the common ground—the higher ground—the endless search for humanity in the midst of it all—a humanity found deep inside the beauty of a wise African proverb—remember, remember—"a snake does not bite itself."

And so goes conflict all over the world, among and between all kinds of people and those who rule them—the kind words and gestures, sometimes never found and often left behind in the pain of not seeing and wanting, though always present—in the deep breath.


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