Thursday, May 1, 2014
On Being Human
Thursday mornings are my Sabbath. I don't set an alarm, and I guard these hours from busyness with ferocity. Most often, I do a little laundry, give the kids cereal, and hunker down with a book and/or internet reading I've been saving throughout the week.
I have to confess that the last two weeks I've been feeling a heaviness—one that comes and goes because I live with the curse/blessing of being unable to disconnect from sorrow—not the inner sorrow of being human but the bigger sorrow of being part of humanity (which I've found is actually the same thing).
So as I scroll through the news stories about kidnapped schoolgirls and racist businessmen and death penalty debacles and D celebrity heroin overdoses, I have to stop and breathe and live with the tragedy. It hurts because as much as I'd love to stay above the emotions that bubble to the surface with these headlines, I can't. I don't have the ability to separate headline life from real life.
And that is a big but—I also feel an overwhelming sense of hope in that inexplicable way that happens when life is hard. Let me just tell you about a few things that happened this week.
One of my kids in Togo posted a picture of a “photo de famille à CEHBED”—a photo of his family at the orphanage. Did you get that? HIS FAMILY. Because our kids—orphans—are being loved and encouraged and brought up to believe they are part of a family—one with a mom and a dad and dozens of aunts and uncles—and the siblings. So many brothers and sisters.
And the moms and dads with pictures and videos of kids riding their bikes for the first time or singing in the talent show or telling jokes or falling asleep at the dinner table or sleeping next to the dog or throwing toys in the toilet—you know, doing all the things that kids do. It’s not minor minutia. These things matter—because these parents are recognizing the joys (and challenges) of parenthood and inviting us to be a part of their story.
And the petitions we can sign to affect change in Washington and around the world, the invitations to write to our congresspeople, those activist friends of mine who take time out of their rat wheel living to say, “Wait just one minute—I won’t let this happen on my watch!” God bless the activists for waking the rest of us up.
Let’s talk about the devastation from natural disasters, but let’s talk more about the clothing, food, and water drives. Let’s talk about neighbors helping neighbors—about boyfriends rescuing their girlfriends from falling walls and children found alive in the rubble because rescue workers have gone without sleep for days. Let’s talk about beauty from ashes, mourning and dancing hand in hand.
And how about the people deciding today is the day to make the big step in the right direction? The new house in a new city because of a new job. The writing workshop that marks the start of a new dream. The first AA meeting—or the first in a long time.
And can we talk about all the new babies that were born in the last two weeks? So many—and I cry EVERYSINGLETIME someone posts those gooey, wrinkly pictures with their private parts waving hello to the world because even though they don’t know it yet, these mamas and daddies have just unleashed world-changing potential into the universe in the form of a wiggly, crying bundle of flesh and blood.
And the pictures of all the fighters—the ones with bald heads and puffy faces and equipment in their noses. My loved ones, your loved ones, our friends’ loved ones—and we’re reading their blogs and raising money for their care by running races and shaving our heads and celebrating small victories in their fight because they’re OURS—they belong to us, and no matter what’s ahead we need the world to know that we’ll be right by their side the whole way.
And allow me a moment to reflect on the work I’m doing right now—my heart is shattered by the statistics about women and babies dying in Sierra Leone. My friend, Gay, who visited the hospital where we’re trying to build a maternity unit said, “I saw more women and children die in seven days than I did in my more than twenty year career as a nurse.” It’s enough to make me double over in physical pain, bringing me to my knees in prayer.
More than sixty people have said NO. We won’t let this be their story—OUR story—we can do better. And we’re doing better. Together. Because that’s the best way to live.
So, today, on my Sabbath, I’ll be watching my kids ride their bikes through the window as I fold a basket of laundry and build a maternity ward. In the immortal words of the prophet, Ben Harper, “I’ve felt pleasure, and I have felt pain, and I know now that I can never be the same.”