But this night was different. Rather than reaching the café, one in our group asked if we heard that sound. Not hearing it while walking we stopped. And listened. And we heard it too. We heard the sounds of drums in the distance. “We have to see this”, I said. And we headed toward the sound of drumming in the distance. We walked in circles toward the drums; larger circles then smaller ones until we got closer. We were no longer on the main drag; instead we were walking amongst blocks of homes dark on
the inside save for the glow of a gasoline lantern
We stood in the courtyard watching for a short while, seeing the drummers drum their djembes, the dancers dance; the fires in the oil drums and the torches and lanterns lit this little square between four houses and smoke and glowing embers floated into the air. We stood there a short while before a woman saw us and told us to come join her. We did. We moved into the throng and were quickly offered chairs and food and drink and I watched the dancers sway and move and groove to the music. I saw the joy in the eyes of the children as they did their routine. I saw the familiarity and broad grins wash across the faces of newly made friends as they told stories to each other about years past. I smiled with them. I had no idea what they were talking about, but I smiled with them.
And in that moment, as I sat there with my fellow volunteers and watched the celebration unfold and ate the food and drank the drink offered to me by strangers, I smiled. And I watched them dance some more. And I listened to the music some more and I felt such elation, such jubilation that happenstance brought me to this courtyard and it felt as if every moment lived before this one was lived to bring me to this exact spot, on this exact night. I stared up into the night sky, happy.
When the time came, I applied for the Foreign Service and met with the Ambassador in Residence at the City University in Harlem and he was very encouraging. I reached out to any and all connections and all signs were suddenly pointing to my being accepted into the program. I was close, so close to realizing this dream of ten years and the drums sounded louder and I could see once again the brightest stars looking down upon me, upon my family until suddenly they stopped. For reasons not important to this story, I was suddenly faced with the realization that we would not be able to live overseas. And with a finality that shook me to my core, this dream was done. The drums were silenced.
And at the end of these forty days, when we celebrate the resurrection of the risen Christ, when we welcome the warmth of the sun once again, we will realize that the cold of winter was as temporary as our wilderness. We will survive our low periods; we will better understand that because we reside in a community that loves us, we too can love even when God seems furthest away. And we will be glad and shout for joy for we are true of heart and having survived that wilderness we can embrace the resurrection.
And after, after Lent and after Easter and after all of this, we will dream once more and the drums, we will hear the sound of drums in the distance.