Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Open Your Eyes. And Your Heart.

There was a lot of coverage in the media about refugees recently - specifically after the body of a toddler washed ashore in Turkey.

And the refugee crisis made headlines for a few weeks as important people called on Europe and other countries to embrace refugee families.

I'm not a big follower of mainstream media. But I have been following stories on Humans of New York and NPR that are forcing me to keep my eyes open. Forcing me to continue to realize that my life is one of much privilege.

Humans of New York is a mostly fun project. For the last 5 years, photographer Brandon has roamed the streets of New York City, chatting with people, capturing a portrait and telling some interesting part of their story. He made news recently when he met a kid and got connected to a school and started highlighting this school and ended up raising a lot of money for them.

He also travels each year and shares stories from overseas. And most recently, he is sharing stories of refugees who have escaped Syria and come to Turkey, Hungary, Germany, Austria. He is meeting people who are doing what they can to help, to comfort, to welcome people.

There are stories that are terrifying. Stories that are heart warming. Stories that are gut wrenching.

And they are all stories of real people who have been living in unbelievable conditions, facing situations that we Americans typically only see in the movies. But this is real life.

Go scroll down the Facebook page. Open your heart. Read their stories.

Many times, I end up on my knees in prayer.

NPR is doing a series in October on #15Girls. "Through the month of reports and audio portraits from eight countries, the series examines gender-based expectations and other elements of these girls' (and a few boys') lives that they see as surmountable obstacles - child marriage in India, the Brazilian bias against tomboys, access to education and healthcare, community violence and sexual abuse. The young women in the #15Girls series take risks, break rules and defy stereotypes to create a better life for themselves."

I listened to the first installment on girls in El Salvador on my drive home yesterday and I fought tears the entire time. El Salvador is run by gangs. And not gangs like we think we know in the United States. Not gangs like we see in the movies. People who are heartless, soul-less, evil. The story that turned my stomach the most was of a girl who was trying to escape to the United States who was caught just hours from the border...

"The girl says her father is in one of El Salvador's two main gangs. He's in prison for murder. And now he says if his ex-wife, the girl's mother, doesn't give him $50,000 when he gets out, he'll have the girl raped and killed.

This is how gangs work in Central America.
The girl says the family doesn't have $50,000. The girl's mom is in the U.S. Her grandmother works in a street stall. Her grandfather doesn't have a job."
Her father is demanding money from her mother and this 13 year old girl is the one caught in the crossfire, the one dangled as bait.

I often have to avoid the news. Because my heart breaks. My gut turns. But at the same time, turning a blind eye to the evil in the world means that no one is willing to fight it. I'm a suburbanite in the United States. In a lot of ways, I'm a typical middle aged white girl - right down to my love of yoga pants. I feel powerless to have any kind of impact on these tragedies, travesties, crimes.

Sometimes, remembering that all of Creation is connected helps me deal with it. I feel like, through prayer and meditation, I can send positive and strong and healing energy out into the world. I can be open to the universe, to my Guidling Light, and listen for how I can be the Hands and Feet of my Creator.

Sometimes, remembering that all of Creation is connected makes me feel the pain, the hopelessness, the devastation in big and huge ways that make me feel like I want to cave in, deep inside myself.

Maybe you are against people coming to "our country." Maybe you think immigrants shouldn't be allowed to come to the U.S. anymore. Maybe you favor walls and guns and guards that keep people out.

If so, no matter what your reasons are for that feeling, please take some time to really immerse yourself in the stories of people who are trying to escape.

And maybe you're like me. You know there is great need in the world and you have no idea how to help, how to be one of those who can offer bread to the refugees, who can offer a home, who can help someone get across a border. I feel very powerless sitting in the middle of Indiana.

Let's find some way to reach across those borders, either physical, mental, emotional or otherwise, and share love in radical ways.

sig jan 2014 photo owlsig.jpg

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