Monday, September 27, 2010

Lessons from Strangers

Once upon a time I had a livejournal I used to blog on and tonight, randomly, I decided to log in and read old entries. I mean really old. It felt a bit weird, reading about events and feelings I had entirely forgotten. It felt like I was reading the entries of an entirely different person. It was so impersonally perky even in the more thoughtful writings. I'm not that person anymore, but she was once me. I'm not sure I ever knew her well. She was so busy, so active, running from here to there, sometimes really mean. Every entry sounds like it was written in a rush. Not long ago, I complained to a dear friend that I was bored and he said, "Maybe this is a good time to ask yourself why you always keep yourself so busy." Being in Mission Year taught me how to ask the hard questions. I became a more self-aware person. At 24, I know that I don't really know that much, but I know that I see myself much clearer than I did at 20. I wonder if I will look back on this entry, years down the line, and think that I did not know much now either. Marilus says that I'm a very intense person, that I interact with everything and everyone like I am in love with them. I don't disagree with her. She warns to be careful, that people like me get hurt and become hardened. But I've walked that road most of my life and this last year I learned a different way, this intense way of love. And she's right, a lot of time it hurts and I've been disappointed more than once, but I like being a passionate, intense, emotional sort of person. I like the empathy I have because of it. It is tempting to return to my heart of stone, to rebuild my high walls, but I won't do it. I pray that I won't do it. I don't want to be tough, I want to have the sort of strength that comes from being in those hard places and walking through them trusting, and maybe not fully knowing, that God is with me in the darkness. Sometimes I feel like I walk for days in darkness and confusion and then have momentary sparks of light and awareness before the darkness falls again. More often than not, I choose it in a desire to be more self-aware. To the next question: why do I keep myself so busy?

This could be a separate blog but I think I'll just include this thought here. I met a homeless man last night who completely broke my heart. His name was Thomas, he was nearly 61 years old, and he is a veteran of the Vietnam war. I was broken by his story, disgusted with our society and American war patriotism, and crushed that I could not do more for him than listen. I think one day I would love to write a play about our soldiers, men and women, that we so recklessly send to fight our greedy wars, vehemently display "support our troops" bumper stickers as we sing "God Bless America"and pray he protects them, and then leave these veterans to sleep on the streets in the rain and eat out of dumpsters in their old age because they have made a few "bad" choices in their broken state. Whose fault is it that they were sent to take the lives of other humans and experience a side of life that most of us won't even choose to see by entering the "ghettos" in our own cities? Sometimes I get really angry because of how blind people are and sometimes I remember grace because not everyone has had the privilege of meeting Thomas.

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