When I was in the 4th grade, I watched as my father stood a few feet from the TV, he cracked a Budweiser, smiled at the TV, and said this: ‘go get em boys.’ That was 17 years ago.
I watched from my corner of our old brown couch with my knees tucked into my chest. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense. The news came on during wheel of fortune, the screen was dark showing little lights shooting across the sky, it was airplanes and gun-fire. The news anchor came on to let America know that we were going to war.
They showed Saddam Huseins face again and again the way that they do, when we learn that we should be afraid. Cold eyes and crazy stare. I watched the faces on TV, and watched my father, who stood so close to the TV, like a little kid watching cartoons. As an army vet, he stood proud, rooting on the soldiers.
The next day, in class, Mrs Goodwin helped us understand what was happening. We were given a letter to take home to our parents to let them know there had been a talk. Later that day in music class, we sang the star-spangled banner. We pledged our allegiance with our hands over our hearts….and we didn’t understand anything. You heard rumors over chocolate milk, of the kid in the next classroom who’s uncle, brother, father was one of those lights in the sky. When you saw that kid in the hall you looked away.
For so many nights I would go to bed and dream that my house would be bombed. I dreamt that Saddam Hussein would walk into our house, and that I would hide in the attic crawl-space that was off of my room. I had a bag packed with snacks. I was sure this was going to happen. I didn’t talk to anyone about this, because I was afraid. I made sure there were enough snacks for my whole family. I had to be careful and take just a few a day, or else my mother would wonder where they had all gone, and I’d be in trouble.
The nightly news would show the same video and photos as that first night. Dark sky, with flashes of light. They’d show pictures of handsome soldiers in their uniforms, and the women and children that love them. When I closed my eyes I saw these families, so I opened my eyes and tried not to sleep.
17 years later, for more of my life than not, America has been at War. Fear has become as much of an epidemic as any virus we know. Yesterday, as the news of Boston spread, I prayed. I don’t watch the news, ever. But I did go on-line to see the different reports…there was a little kid, maybe 7, and he stood holding hands with his Mom. I wondered what he would see at night when he went to bed. I prayed he would not dream of war, I hoped for him, as many more years as he could of dreaming of things that should fill the nighttime of a child. I prayed that if he was afraid he would say it out loud and someone would listen to him and not say this ‘it will be okay’ because truth is, it’s not okay, and we cant make idle guarantees. We can only say I love you and mean it. We should say it more.
Fear lives in us deeply. As adults it creates in us a stand-still, a paralysis to move, a need to control everything so that we are safe. We live in homes with gates and codes, alarms and fences, we do not go out at night alone. We believe in fear, we feed it, we are afraid. We have our own personal stories of why we should be afraid, and we have inherited stories from everyone else. When we don’t believe our children are looking at us, they are. They are always always looking to us to know if they are free. How could a child ever believe what we don’t believe.
I’m not a mother yet, I have no idea the responsibility of what that takes, to both protect and to free, to love and to let go…I cant speak to it. What I do know is this, tragedy flashes across the TV and newspapers much more than triumph ever does. Triumph rarely makes the front page. Rarely makes the first words of our conversations. In our fear, we come together, we need to know we are not alone.
Can we. Can we come together in our triumphs as well, more often. Can we know then, that not only are we not alone, but that we are connected and alive.
Where there is fear, there is love. Where there is love, there is humanity. Where there is humanity, there are people helping. Running straight into the fire of what we could never comprehend, comprehension prevents action. To truly serve, no matter how large or small the act, the movement must be initiated on the level of heart. To open our hands and eyes to the things that will forever be in our minds, risking that we will see these things when we go to bed…and we may.
I came across the beautiful quote from Mister Rogers yesterday, from one of my favorite little dudes, Kid President. I saw it move through several peoples posts, so I think it’s landing.
‘“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” –Mister Rogers.
I hope you can too. See the faces of the people that help. Of the moments when you helped, when it didn’t make sense, when it broke your heart, when you moved forward with a broken heart. When you moved.
I hope we show our children the beautiful people that help, so that they see these faces when they go to sleep at night, I hope they dream sweet and slow.
This world. It makes less sense to me everyday. It feels broken and hard. But when I choose to believe this, then it is all I can see. And with that, it’s who I become. And I don’t want to become that.
I’ll end with this. In my time in Kenya I saw unimaginable things, conditions and systems that seemed broken beyond repair. And when I couldn’t sleep at night, I woke up and told myself to see the joy, that if were ever going to breathe deep I had to let go of my fear. Of what I saw. Of who I believed I was and I wasnt. To see the service. To see the LOVE. And I swear, it became all I could see.
It became all I could see.
When I have the privilege of sharing with others about my time in Kenya, all I can share is the joy, because all I can ever do is tell the biggest truth that I know. I’m commited to that whole-heartedly.
I don’t mean that we should not see the world as it is…but my invitation is to see the world mindful that our thoughts are powerful. So powerful. Look for the people who are helping and join them.
I dont know the source/why/reason of what happened yesterday, I dont know if it was an act of war, but organized or not, acts like this are an expression of war on some level. My humble prayers and thoughts are with the fine city of Boston. May your hearts be bigger than your fear.