A few weeks ago I had a really nice copyediting project. It’s a memoir called A Thousand Hills to Heaven, written by a man named Josh Ruxin, who goes with his wife Alissa to Rwanda to help set up new health clinics, revamp the farming system, etc., as part of the UN’s Millennium Villages project. While there, Josh and Alissa not only have three kids but also decide to start a gourmet restaurant, in large part to help create jobs. The restaurant is called Heaven, and it soon becomes one of the top restaurants in all of Africa, let alone Rwanda. The book is lovely, mostly because pretty much the only thing any of us Americans know about Rwanda is the genocide, and we aren't aware of how much healing has already gone on and continues to go on there. The government is remarkably un-corrupt, and is doing everything it can to help raise the people out of poverty and become self-sufficient. Those who managed to escape from the genocide fled to neighboring countries where they got good educations, and many came back to make their lives in Rwanda. So you have all the makings of a rebirth, with just a little help from international foundations. Ruxin points out throughout that you haven’t done a thing if you haven’t prepared people to continue your projects once you leave—the old “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime” thing. So all of the projects he works on are meant to continue on long after he’s moved on. It was a beautiful and inspiring and fascinating book.
So, last night Andy and I went out for my belated birthday dinner, to Mistral as usual, and had a splendid meal, also as usual. At the table next to us were two women, and every so often the older woman would reach across the table and clasp the younger woman’s hand, and they were both just beaming. They must have caught me smiling at them, because the older woman explained to us, “My daughter just surprised me by flying in from Africa for Mother’s Day!” The daughter had arranged to have the mom taken to Mistral by a friend, then she showed up with flowers and the friend left. Best Mother’s Day gift ever, huh?
We got to talking, and—you guessed it—the daughter had flown in from Rwanda, where she is working for a year to help institute new systems for prenatal care. She knew the Ruxins, and she and her mother had in fact eaten at Heaven when her mother visited her! We were both so excited to have had this serendipitous meeting. Just a month ago I would’ve nodded and smiled politely while thinking, “Rwanda? Yikes.” I have such a new perspective now.