Saturday, October 27, 2007

On heartache and goosebumps

"And right there, your heart shatters and cries a million tears for the injustices of this world."

Four adults sat in a circle, each clutching either an arm or a leg of the child in the center, naked, not yet of walking age, stretched out on the dirt floor. A fifth party held a thin, primitive metal stick, crudely sharpened at one end with which they proceeded to mercilessly scrape the baby's bare chest, carving designs and symbols unintelligible to my incredulous eyes held captive to the screen. Blood everywhere. The pained screams of the infant reflectively echoed the ones my quickly clapped hand kept from escaping from my own mouth. Despite the grainy quality of the footage, the images wove an ensnaring web of freezing repugnance that bound me restrictively from looking away, from too easily clicking the exit button. This continued for century- long minutes. I sat in stunned silence in the aftermath of the video. Then I frantically ran to the bathroom for fear my horror was about to manifest itself in vomit form. I hovered over the porcelain sink and warily glanced at my surroundings. How could it be that I was existing so comfortably in the very same world as that child victim of 'traditional' mutilation?

I returned to my desk and with a deep breath inserted the next CDROM. This time it was a video about Leedah, an eleven-year-old girl from Cambodia left home alone to take care of her two younger brothers and carry the duty of all other chores, while still attempting to attend school. Then a documentary of an illegal immigrant's risk-riddled journey from Honduras to the Arizona-Mexico border in a last resort's endeavor to feed his dying mother and eight famished children. Then the "stereotypical" images of languid bloated babies and swarming flies in an African country--your pick; effects of the indiscriminately ravaging HIV/AIDS epidemic. Then an eerie account of a young girl whose impoverished desperation unsightingly lured her into the brutally miserable bondage of prostitution. Then the story of...I glanced at the preliminary stack of CDs. After seven hours, I had barely made a dent in all I was to categorize. My heart trembled at the prospects of what still lay ahead and you can be sure the goosebumps never left me.

The Amazon River divide never seemed so indubitably wide as when I was sitting in the UNICEF office today, staring hollowly at the computer screen. Those who have seen Motorcycle Diaries will know what I'm talking about. Separating the north from south, east from west, ill from healthy, developed from developing.

Maybe at the surface level, it's just the Hollywood glamorized adventures of Che Guevara. But I want that life in real. I want to live for swimming across. With the shitty asthmatic lungs, the mysteriously unknown creatures lurking about, the pitch black blinding obscurity of night; to laugh in the face of murky, lurid uncertainty and all those who say it can't be done. I want to live for bridging the gap. And actually do it.

"Is this not the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter--
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness will go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer,
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.

'If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talks,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,
then your light will rise in the darkness,
and your night will become like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you always
he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land
and will strengthen your frame.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like a spring whose waters never fail.
Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings."
--Isaiah 58: 6-12

This is the fast that I have chosen.
This is what I want to live for and this is what I want to be about.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Lauren! It's Caitlin O'Connor, remember me?? I saw your blog link...and I have a blog too, so I thought I would come comment on yours! I am going into humanitarian work post college, and these are two of my favorite quotes regarding the matter...

"I have but one candle of life to burn, and I would rather burn it out in a land filled with darkness than in a land flooded with light." -- John Keith Falconer

"Let my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God." -- Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision