We Can Do Better…..

I’ve been fascinated with the journey of the “Humans of New York” photographer.  From Europe to Africa to Asia…..the stories of the people he comes across in his journey have made me laugh, cry, and fall to my knees in thanksgiving.  Sometimes I forget how good I have it.  Brandon’s photos and stories often remind me.  And, as painful as it can be, I am thankful for that.

Saturday he shared a picture of a man from Saigon, Vietnam who described what it was like to be on the ground when the American planes were bombing them.   He finished with:  “When they dropped their bombs, I don’t think those pilots knew what it was like on the ground.”  (Click here to see the photo and story from Humans of New York.)

The grace given in those last words blew me away.  I don’t know that I’ve ever extended grace that looked anything like that.  That’s powerful and challenging and I just don’t think I have what it takes to forgive like that.

And that makes me sad.

Below the photo on the Facebook post were the comments that people had made about this mans’ story.  The ones most liked by others were at the top.  And that’s where I read the other words, the ones that have stayed with me today.

It’s an African proverb:

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This has moved me to tears more than once today.  Our world, our country, our community, our families are in turmoil.  And who is paying for it?  Those who don’t have a dog in this hunt, a bone to pick in this fight.  The innocents.  The ones who don’t get a say in how this all plays out.  The ones who have often have no idea why the fighting is going on at all.  As if those of us in it do…..

*sigh*

Tonight I am thankful for the peacemakers in this world, for the ones who stand up to speak for those in need.  I am thankful for those who use their words to put down on paper stories that teach us it’s in our hands to make a difference for the ones who have no voice.  And I am thankful for Brandon, whose brave journey and stories from around the world have yet again touched my heart and challenged my soul with the task of growing and doing better.

My parents used to say, “If you know better, do better, and folks’ll like you better. ”

Amen.

Love to all.

 

Belonging With

Tonight I took a few minutes to catch up on the “news” on Facebook.  I saw yet another post from Humans of New York.  Remember I told y’all this photographer is travelling around the world on a UN World Tour?  Are you following Brandon and his adventures?  Oh, the lives he is touching with what he is sharing daily–and I’m one of them.

Earlier today Brandon the photographer shared that he would be at a park in Delhi this afternoon if anyone wanted to meet up with him.  I had forgotten about that invitation until this evening when I saw a picture he shared of a big crowd of people, some holding up signs and all looking happy to be there.

Brandon captioned the photo with these words:

Thanks to all of you who came to the meet-up in Delhi. It went about as well as a spontaneous meet-up could possibly go. Amazingly, we were able to have a pretty organized, calm speech. Until the very end, of course, when we ran from the police. Coolest part for me was when the police were looking for someone to blame for the crowd, and asked: “Who is he with?” And everyone screamed in unison:  “All of us!”
You can see the post for yourself here.
As I read those words once, twice, I looked at the joy in the picture.  I was moved.  I imagined what it must have been like for Brandon to hear those words said by everyone there–“All of us!”  He belongs with all of us.
Wow.
A couple of days ago, when I wrote my letter to Disney, one of my friends shared it on her Facebook page.  She prefaced it by saying, “Yes!  What my girl just said!”
That humbled me and moved me to tears.  “My” girl.
It’s what we all really want, isn’t it–or is it just me?  Don’t we all want to belong with someone?  To be claimed as one of their own?
The word “with” is powerful–belonging to and belonging with are two totally different things.
With is alongside, with is a partnership, with is taking care of each other and sharing the journey. With is having a place, a spot.
With is belonging.
Is there someone who needs to hear that they belong with you?
Tonight I’m thankful for Brandon’s journey and all of the stories and photos he has shared.  They have opened up my eyes and heart to so many stories I never would have known before.  And I give thanks that he and all of his friends in the park today helped me recognize exactly what it is that my heart and soul needs to feel so very much–to belong with, to be claimed.
May you all have someone who, when the world asks, “who does this person belong with,” raises their hand and calls out at the top of their lungs–“ME!”
Love and belonging to all.

On Dreaming Big

There’s a woman in the Democratic Republic of Congo standing there.  In her lovely, colorful dress she stands in the middle of some, by our standards, humble dwellings.  The photographer Brandon asks her, “What’s your biggest dream?”

The woman, almost smiling as the camera clicks, replies, “To be the mother of a doctor, the mother of a minister, the mother of an engineer.”

Wow.  So there’s this amazing thing (I am not sure what else to call it) called “Humans of New York.” The photographer usually posts several photos and quotes from people throughout the day.  Right now he is on a UN World Tour, and the journey has been so beautiful and broken, I have cried or laughed at each post–and sometimes I’ve done both.  People are people all over, you know?  We are all made of the same stuff, and our hearts all break and fall and love– sometimes over the same things, sometimes different.  I follow the page on Facebook, but I guess it is based on a “Tumblr” account–something I’ve not ventured into.  I first read the woman’s story above on Facebook, and her answer touched me.  You can see her picture here.   She is beautiful and graceful and regal as she stands there, isn’t she?

And in her answer too, in my opinion.

But not everyone agreed.

I remember someone commented, “Shouldn’t her children have a say in this?”  “Why is she setting such high goals for them?  She should be happy whatever they want to do.”  And so on.

Oh me.

As a Mama, I get it.  I dream big for my children.  My Daddy once told me that each generation wants their children to have it a little better than the one before them did.  Maybe that’s it.  I want them to dream big, and I want to be right there encouraging and empowering and cheering them through to the finish line, until they figure out what the next big thing is, and off we go again.  I want them to be satisfied with where they are but never quite comfortable enough to stay there.  (Not necessarily geographically speaking, y’all. Staying put is fine, not moving is not.  There is a difference.)

I think that DROC Mama wants something better for her children too.  I think maybe something might have been lost in the translation since some folks seemed to read it another way, but looking at that picture, my heart heard what I think she is saying.  Her biggest dream is that her children will choose a path that could take them far away from the worry and strife and poverty for their own families–a path that will not only allow them to take care of themselves, but also to care for others.

Sitting here now thinking about it, I think her biggest dream is symbolic of her hope–the careers she spoke of for her children take care of the body, the soul, and their future.  All of which can give her hope that things will be better for them and for those who follow.  She wants her children to make a difference in this world, and she thought of three paths that will do just that if done with caring and compassion.

Both of which I’m hedging my bets she’s teaching them.

I’m sad that she was judged so quickly and harshly by folks here in our society–one in which the education and paths to all three of those choices are a little easier, I expect, than in the community this woman is living.  She is choosing strength and a foundation of caring for her children.

And her biggest dream is about them carrying on and making a difference.

That.  Right.  There.

Beautiful.

Her biggest dream wasn’t winning the lottery, if they even have one.  It wasn’t about owning a mansion or driving a fancy car.  It wasn’t about writing the next great highly-acclaimed novel.  It wasn’t even about having enough food on the table or clean water to drink.

She is a dreamer.  And her dream is about those she was given to love and to raise.  And it was a gift from her to them–a gift of hope blooming and them making this world a better place.

I don’t even know.

I don’t know what my own answer would be if asked that question.  I have so much.  So.  Very.  Much.

Dream?  My biggest dream?

That the world be a little less broken and that me and mine can be a part of getting it there?

Maybe?

Tonight I’m thankful for folks like Brandon at HONY who are changing our world, bringing us all a little closer together one photograph and shared story at a time.  And I’m especially grateful to my sister half a world away who taught me a big something about what matters and what real dreams and caring look like in this world.  Bless her.

Love to all.

 

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As I sat here writing tonight, this song kept going through my head.  I was a huge fan of David Cook’s as he competed in American Idol, and I LOVED this song he sang in the finale.  I guess that’s why I keep hearing “If you don’t dream big, what’s the use of dreaming?” over and over.  That and “Go big or go home.” 

Here’s the lyrics to the song with vocals by David Cook.  (The other videos had the judges’ stuff after and who needs that–we already know he WON, he’s just that fabulous.  And he’s a dreamer too…..)  Hope y’all enjoy.