Hello again, God. Have you missed me? It’s been a long time since I talked to you. I just had a sad, yet really awakening experience as I sit here and work at the office. It’s 7pm and I’m feeling pressure to do the million things I’m behind on that sit on my brain and keep me from feeling free. I wish I was a better person and able to do more. There are so many things that are taking up space in my head and my heart and although I am trying to get everything done, it feels like I work all day and still don’t get enough accomplished. I’ve become averse to phone calls. I have a list of people I need to message back. I haven’t forgotten them or that thing I said, I’m trying to get there. Help me focus more, okay? Thank you.
The curse of being busy is something I don’t like and don’t want to wear as a badge of honor. I really liked that talk he gave. I’ve thought about it often and I will try to do better at following everything he says, okay? I promise. 2018 things will calm down. It’s just the catch up game right now that came from a lot of difficult and messy things this last year. You know though. I’m sorry I’ve been MIA a lot. Sometimes I don’t know what to say or what to even pray for.
Recently I’ve been thinking about that question a lot that I get asked.
“How do you deal with all the bad things that you see and deal with everyday?”
Sometimes all those things really do haunt me. Mostly just that sick, deep feeling of not being able to fix it all. Problems seem big when you hear the numbers of the millions, but the problems get deep and painful when you are there sitting with the people in their pain. When you’re with the people that are being wronged and need help. The raped 3 year old in Nepal. The trafficked 13 year old girl that was sold by a family member after her parents died. The drowning refugees we pull out of the sea on the beaches in Greece. The people in any of our countries we work to empower that have less opportunities than they deserve, more heartache than anyone should be asked to bear. The ones that go to bed hungry, drop out of school to support their families, are forced to run from their bombed homes, and get treated horribly because of their caste, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, and many other things that are out of their control.
You know them. I know You know their names and You feel their pain with them. I bet they also talk to You a lot. How can You listen to so many of those pleas for help and have so much patience with those of us that can do something to help them and make it right and do nothing? I’m sorry I forget sometimes the power I have to do more. Can you try and help me be better at remembering that? I thought about that yesterday on Facebook as I scrolled past my friend Hanna’s fundraiser for the 10th time. Why wasn’t I paying attention to that little three year old Ugandan’s heart surgery that she needs to survive? How did I scroll past that so many times doing nothing, with all that I preach about every little bit counts? Please help me get my life and head organized so no opportunity to help anyone slips away from me. This desire really hit me tonight when that refugee boy from Nigeria that I met last year messaged me.
Him: “I have been looking for the way to get your contact, but no avail. But am very happy right now when I saw something that you posted on Facebook.”
Me in my head: ‘Oh no. He found me.’ (Unfair, because he is super nice and I have almost zero history with him. I have no idea what he wants and no real reason to ignore him other than I am “busy”. He was always so nice to me when I would pass him on the street or in camp on Lesvos Island.)
He sends me a few more messages and without opening them but just reading the little preview I am grasping that his claim for asylum has been denied.
Me still in my head: ‘Dang, that’s a bummer. He is a really nice guy. I hope he can figure that out.”
(Without being too negative to the services in this process, there are often many mistakes where people truly needing help and asylum are denied the first time because they have a bad interviewer or they don’t understand what to share about their traumatic pasts or a million other reasons. Often a lawyer needs to review their case with them and explain things one on one and really get them help. So many people never even talk to a lawyer and fall through the cracks of the broken system due to the low resources and high numbers.)
Me as I click through more emails and watch his messages come through: ‘Hope he has a lawyer.’
Him in another message: “Since two weeks ago, I can’t sleep, I can’t eat food because am not hungry at all and I have no more joy in me, I also think negative thinking about how to hurt myself, because of the negative results that the Asylum service gave to me.”
Me thinking about all the reports I have been reading recently about refugees trying to end their lives: ‘Man winter is so difficult in the tents and harsh conditions. Those reports about self harm probably all are true, plus some.’ I open his messages.
Him again after detailing even more of his home country and how lost he was of where to go and what to do now: “Please am very sorry for saying all these things”
Something in that sentence woke me up. What the heck was I doing? I knew lawyers in Greece. I have a good friend who runs an awesome organization where she specializes in helping refugees with their legal issues and ones that have been abused by the system. It was 4am in Greece. I don’t know where he was or how many people he had reached out to, but I could help him. Why was I mindlessly reading his desperate messages for help as I worked away on my own things?? This is a human I know! What a gutted guilty feeling to realize. The worst part? I contacted my lawyer boss-lady friend who just so happened to randomly be awake (honestly tho she’s always awake at 4am helping someone it seems) and got him connected to the place he needs to go to start the process of getting help. The whole thing took me a total of 4 minutes. Four minutes to get him the help that he desperately needed and I could give. Four minutes to message my friend, get a response and the address and respond to him and explain what he needed to do. This was 4 minutes to me but his whole life potentially for him. Gosh sometimes I’m a really horrible person. Can You forgive me for sometimes messing up and not caring enough about Your individual children after all that I am constantly preaching and trying to stand for?
I’ve thought about that question people ask me a lot as I move through the darkness of unfair circumstances that I am trying desperately to fix each day when I go to work at HELP. How does one keep Your light? How do you keep strong and able to keep giving through the most difficult times that life sometimes offers. Why don’t I lean on You more? Can you help me remember there is strength greater than me? That if it all was easy I wouldn’t ever learn to be humble and turn to any higher power? That I can ask people around me for help when I need it and it doesn’t make me weak? I was recently talking to a woman I admire very much who is a case worker with families who have lost their children and are trying to get their lives on track enough to get them back. People ask her that question too. And she feels bad sometimes with saying that the only way to not get bogged down is to keep working to fix it all – like we are calling out others for not doing as much. But it’s true, that principle of continuing to move forward, to chip away at the problem, to know you’re doing your part no matter how small the impact may seem. That’s what keeps you sane and motivated to keep going.
If you stop it catches up to you and ties you down with doubt until you can’t see a way to solve it all so you stop altogether. We agreed that we, or others in our field, aren’t stronger than anyone else. And that statement, “Wow, I couldn’t do what you do” really is a cop out. It’s an excuse because you could. You are choosing not to, or you tried and got stopped in the fight.
The answer to that question really is in believing in the promises that goodness is real and in the moving forward. I believe that the overwhelming feelings, the ‘I can’t do it’, the ‘this is too big’, comes when you see it all and stop. Please help me never stop, God. Please help me see ways other people can help and keep helping too. I believe in individuals. I believe in little acts of kindness. I believe in the constant striving for good and the never giving up, even if all you move today is in inch. I believe in people that are made of that. The people that throw one star fish back. The people that fight for the underdog because it is the right thing to do and not necessarily the winning team. Please help me always be counted among those types of people.
I know I can’t ever go back now. Not ever, really. Once you know first hand the injustice, the pain, you can’t ever really walk away. It will pick at my heart and I’ll remember those people and those places, the moments where someone was needed to fight and help – where You needed someone to do something for someone else. I believe in people that use their powers for those in need. The people that recognize their ability to do something for someone and they just say yes. This week I have recommitted myself to that. To be more aware of the things I can do without getting that desensitized ‘scroll brain’. Where you’re seeing things but only 1/4 present because you’re just scrolling away not really focused on anything.
Being desensitized is so easy. Often you don’t even know it’s happening until you get a wake up call. A desperate “please” message or a jarring picture that reminds you that you have privilege and you can help those that have different circumstances than you. As I recently walked through the camps and the community centers on Lesvos I couldn’t help but notice all the differences in the room and the tents. Skin color, religion, nationality, hair color, education backgrounds – so many differences in those tiny spaces. But also so many things that make us the same and bring us together if we let them. Everyone You made wants to belong, to have safe spaces where they feel love and welcomed, don’t they? Breeding hate in any corner of the world and not doing your part to preach the opposite is what will destroy us all in the end I think. Please help me fight for change, not get desensitized, learn to listen and empathize more, be brave enough to stand up for those that need it and always recognize an outstretched hand in my direction and my ability to get to them and do something about it. Thank you for giving me strength and determination. Please help me never loose it.