How Africa saved me

Jann Arden writes about her volunteering experience

As I get older, my idea of what it is to give has changed profoundly. What I thought giving was twenty years ago, is simply not what is in my heart now. Giving is so much bigger and so much more important to me now. I am truly starting to understand that giving of one’s self is everything that is decent in this life. Giving not only from your pocket book, but of your time and your energy. Giving another soul your attention and your empathy is bigger than anything giving money will ever turn out to be. In the giving of kind words, spirits blossom. I have seen it first hand. I have seen how a kind and sincere comment can completely alter another person’s day.

Words are powerful tools. Words are the things that dreams rely upon. Words have shaped my life and changed the very centre of my being. I have realized that words are what I have to give. Simple, heartfelt truths that make me feel worthwhile each and every day. Words that make me want to be better, try harder, stand taller, and be kinder. I often wondered what I would do to make the world better…I wondered what my “purpose” would be.

I write songs. That is what I do. I write about simple human sentiment, and I always will. My words have provided me with everything that I have. My words are everything that I am. I have never been selfish about my work. I write things that are often hard to articulate. I write them down because I am compelled to do so. I don’t question why. I never expected to have the out pouring of letters that I have had from people all over the world. What those letters have given me, ironically enough, is beyond words. I am humbled and honoured to share a small space in people’s lives. I am honoured to be in their cars and at their dinner parties, albeit on the stereo in the background. I am so grateful.

My words have enabled me to go to Tanzania and Ethiopia. I travelled halfway around the world to “help” people who had nothing, and in actuality, it was they who helped me. Africa saved me. All these horribly impoverished people, crouched in front of their crumbling, decrepit homes, giving me back a sense of who I really was. I will be eternally in Africa’s debt.

My words have enabled me to do and be more than I ever dreamed possible. What is giving to me? I believe it’s our responsibility to be the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be. To truly be ourselves, is our journey. To discover what we are, and who we are and why we are.