Friday, December 22, 2006

It is strange to watch a movie about something that feels as close to you as your own breathing, your own organs expanding and constricting in suspended grief, and disbelief, and grief again. As if it were inside your head, inside your skin and each pain flickering across the screen squeezes a little harder around your heart. As if you were attached.
It makes my heart hurt, a palpable, physical thing. The same wincing feeling of losing someone you cannot bear to lose.
Sometimes I feel my heart stop beating.

When I was 12 I convinced myself I had a heart murmur. I wasn't quite sure exactly what that was but I felt sure it had something to do with feeling your heart quit. Or maybe hearing it talk--- as if it were speaking a warning---that it couldn't take some things. Mine would often palpitate and I would try to know what it was saying. I never really knew, but it scared me. That maybe it would just implode.

My kids at school all call me Ms. Heart's. And that's how they spell it too. Mr. Fields' likes to joke with the kids and say "it's because she has a big heart!" and the kids think that's funny. It makes me smile on days when I'm not sure of what I'm doing. It makes me want to change the spelling of my name because most days my heart feels small, like it can't contain any more.

I watched BLOOD DIAMOND for the second time and in the face of the little boy who becomes a soldier I saw the faces of boys and girls who in a way, shut down, because their hearts could not take any more. We all do it. It's called survival. But I yearn for the day when I will see them laugh again, and mean it.

Leanardo Dicaprio said something that struck me--he said, "the peace corps types, they always burn out" and I laughed sort of cynically because I knew what he meant and yet I didn't want to believe it. Whether it be that the government is so corrupt, or change is so hard, or the very people you want to help don't seem to want it. It's the fighting against systems that are so ingrained, so complex, they snuff the hope right out of you.

And I realized this can't be a mission, this can't be a goal with an expected end, it can't be success by standards the world has deemed successful. It can't be a neatly wrapped story.
It must be small acts of love. Relationship. Empathy, not sympathy. Friendship, not services.
It must be one life in the face of many lives or we face the risk of becoming cynical ourselves. I want to stay tender. I don't want to wake up one morning and not cry anymore over injustices that should not be. And I don't want to resent the very people, the very place, that gave me my purpose.

This is bigger than you and me or what we can offer. My working 70 hours a week isn't going to help me become the person I need to be to keep loving, and keep staying when the very beautiful things I'm working for are things I cannot be myself.

What I have always admired about Mother Teresa is that she kept her priorities. She knew she couldn't cure all the sick, so she held one of them while they were dying. I have to remind myself of that. Love one girl. Hold one orphan. Bring one present. Tell one story. Buy one diamond that didn't shed blood. Simple and doable when the problems shout too loud. One. Maybe if we all thought that way we would do more simply by taking on one thing.

Part of me sometimes wants to become a journalist and tell the masses about the things they couldn't imagine happen in the rest of the world. I want to tell the masses to save the masses. But I couldn't say anything shocking enough unless they were connected to it. So instead, I'll just do what I can do. Love. Keep faith alive. Keep hope alive. And never let my heart become hard enough that it stops beating, that it stops believing.

In one week I return to Uganda for a month. I'm bringing a lot of christmas presents that people like you donated to bring hope to children over there who have nothing. I'm excited to be close again to the land, and the people I love. Keep believing, keep praying, and keep doing that one small thing you can do. Watch Blood Diamond. And think of the kids in Uganda who are now experiencing what happened in Sierra Leone. We cannot change the past, but we can do something in the present, for the future.

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