The first time I visited India, I was 19. On the plane ride over I felt excited. How exotic of me, I thought. How very cool I am. How WORDLY. I stepped out of the airport, onto Indian soil, and fifteen minutes later I began weeping. I didn’t stop for four days. Nothing I saw made sense. Too much, I kept thinking. It’s too much for my heart to bear.
When we are confronted by our first direct experience of humanity’s brutality, it strikes deep, doesn’t it? It’s like a slap in the face. Our eyes open for the first time, and as if we’ve been asleep for 20 years, the light that hits them is just so eye-watering bright. It hurts it’s so bright. I returned home, forever changed, and I learned everything I could. I wanted to know what was really going on in the world I lived in and what the hell I could do about it. My passion for the abused, the abandoned, the underprivileged, the exploited and the hungry fueled a raging fire inside of me and I was determined to commit my life to saving this world. I read about the international child sex slave industry. I watched movies on women’s oppression under Taliban ruling. I learned how animals were farmed and slaughtered before they reached my plate. I read about foster care statistics and the rate at which children are molested in the very family which exists to protect them. I read about corporate greed and the exploitation of not only the earth we live on, but the people upon it — how the hunger for money destroyed the drive to care, to be good. The list went on and on. I couldn’t turn a blind eye because I realized too much. But that’s the thing about too much. The mere size and volume of humanity’s suffering soon plunged me into feeling completely overwhelmed and hopelessly insignificant. The things I did for various causes seemed so little. It was like madly scooping water out of a sinking boat when the ocean was flooding in at twice the speed. I became deeply disheartened. I lost much of my faith because, really, how could I ever change all the bad people on this earth? To me, so many people with power seemed inherently evil and the good that was being done would never, ever, ever change them. It seemed hopeless.
And because it was all too much, because I was so jaded by the god-awful suffering everywhere, I eventually ignored it. I blocked it all out of my mind and accepted that the world was screwed, basically. I became a vegetarian and donated a small fraction of my earnings to a well-known humanitarian charity, because you know, I wasn’t a total jerk, but that’s where it stopped. Everything else was too much and I was not enough, clearly. I stopped watching the news. I stopped reading books friends gave me. I stopped following links on people’s Facebook page about the latest inhumane occurrence.
Too much, too much, too much.
And then this week. Boston. I woke up to the news of Boston and I thought here we go again. It’s never going to stop is it? It’s NEVER GOING TO STOP. I thought about the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut last year. I thought about the 6,ooo little girls all over the world who, every day, are circumcised in the most terrible conditions. Then I thought about all the people who are senselessly killed every day, who are harmed, tortured, and exploited, and whom go unnoticed because they don’t make news headlines.
Too much, too much, too much.
Yesterday, I came across Patton Oswalt. He is a popular comedian who wrote a Facebook status which has been shared over 250,000 times. This is what he wrote:
“Boston. F***ing horrible. I remember, when 9/11 went down, my reaction was, “Well, I’ve had it with humanity.” But I was wrong. I don’t know what’s going to be revealed to be behind all of this mayhem. One human insect or a poisonous mass of broken sociopaths.
But here’s what I DO know. If it’s one person or a HUNDRED people, that number is not even a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the population on this planet. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction to help out. (Thanks FAKE Gallery founder and owner Paul Kozlowski for pointing this out to me). This is a giant planet and we’re lucky to live on it but there are prices and penalties incurred for the daily miracle of existence. One of them is, every once in awhile, the wiring of a tiny sliver of the species gets snarled and they’re pointed towards darkness.
But the vast majority stands against that darkness and, like white blood cells attacking a virus, they dilute and weaken and eventually wash away the evil doers and, more importantly, the damage they wreak. This is beyond religion or creed or nation. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
So when you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think, “The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
I read it again, and then I read it one more time, and I committed these words to my memory:
1. We would not be here if humanity were inherently evil. We’d have eaten ourselves alive long ago.
2. You watch the videos of the carnage and there are people running TOWARDS the destruction.
3. The vast majority stands against darkness…When you spot violence, or bigotry, or intolerance or fear or just garden-variety misogyny, hatred or ignorance, just look it in the eye and think,”The good outnumber you, and we always will.”
It made me cry because it was the truth.
It was JUST the thing to read. That evil is the minority. That love will always, always run toward destruction and smother it. I thought that more than anything else, I want to run towards destruction, not give up in weariness. Because I think heaven is found in the running towards. I don’t think our job here is to wait for heaven in our afterlife, or Nirvana, or enlightenment, or whatever word you choose to describe infinite peace and bliss. I think our job is to bring heaven to earth. I think heaven exists in the hearts and eyes and legs of all the running-towarders. The God I know is really just a fancy name for Love, after all.
This week, this is what running towards looks like, for me.
We welcomed another baby girl into our family. Alliane. She lives in Rwanda with her most important family, but as soon as I saw her I knew a part of her belonged with us too. The strangest thing is that Allie is what I wanted Ella’s name to be, but Joel didn’t like it. When Joel and I decided to sponsor a child I thought, how in blazers am I going to choose? How? But then I remembered I had the same feeling years ago when I went to the animal shelter to adopt a cat. In the end, Sasha chose me. So when I saw Alliane’s shy little eyes, my heart melted a little, and then when I learned her name, I knew she was for us. We showed Ella Allie’s photo (we call her Allie), and she stared at her for the longest time. Then, she kissed her twice, looked up at us and grinned her big lion-baring-teeth-grin she does when she’s especially happy.
Then she tucked Allie under her arm and carried her around all morning, like only a sister would.
Sponsoring a child isn’t everything, I know, but it’s something. And like Mama T says, “We cannot do great things, only small things with great love.” I finally realize that’s enough. Running towards with Great Love is enough.
Friday Photo Dump
daily bike rides :: song and rhyme time at the library :: water park day :: my happy place (yes some days it’s simply a chair) :: Joel’s belated birthday present :: my church :: watching these two play :: mornings on the bed with Sasha and my beetroot juice girl
These were taken using the free Instagram app and uploaded onto a collage using a photo editing program (I use Photoshop Elements). You can follow the red tent feed on Instagram here.
Small things. Great love.