I’m grading papers and playing Candy Crush and working on my teacher’s website right now. Not very well. And just as I was about to start working exclusively on the papers, the main theme song for the documentary Invisible Children came on.
I bought it for my iPod. Yeah, I’m kind of dorky like that. I like soundtracks.
So, anyhow, about seven years ago, I saw the movie Invisible Children and was utterly amazed and grieved and distraught with the lives of the Ugandan Night Commuter Children who were walking upwards of twenty miles a day to escape the violence of the Lord’s Resistance Army and Joseph Kony.
And I was utterly amazed by the courage of the three American filmmakers who chose to go to Africa and document what was occurring and then to teach the world about what was happening.
Now, I know that since the documentary was released that changes have occurred and that some Ugandans are not happy with the American perceptions of their country and how things are currently existing.
But, the fact is, the theme song always inspires me to think about hope. Because the closing song starts with a sense of plaintive notes, this darkness that encloses a somber percussion, a shuffling evocative of the bare feet of little children.
And then, almost like a dawning moment, the music bursts into a soprano collection of notes, going through a chord of scales, bounding through five or so notes and repeating the same score in different keys.
The music underscores the question, what will I do? What will I do to make the change that needs to happen in this world?
The massacre in California happened this week.
A month ago, if that, Paris was attacked.
A Russian passenger airplane was shot out of the sky.
A Russian fighter jet was shot out of the sky.
Everywhere, it seems, tragedy is happening and I feel rather powerless in my fight against human tragedy.
I could stand here, in my home, and just acknowledge that these tragedies are happening.
But, today, the Boy and I had a quiet lunch together and, on the way home, we talked about our trip to New York City and how the Girl and I are looking at going to New York City next March. And the Boy isn’t going to come because the Girl and I are planning on hitting art galleries.
I mentioned the 9/11 Museum, expecting the Boy to state that he didn’t want to go there much like he had in the preceding summer. Because he didn’t want to go on vacation only to be depressed. And I had to admit that I agreed with him. Vacations are supposed to be times of joy, of peace, not times of sadness and grief and mourning.
But, today, the Boy said that he was glad he had gone to the Memorial. And that he would like to go to the Museum because he finally understands what I’ve been talking about all these years. He admitted that he really thinks that we needed to go to the Memorial and that we will need to go again.
Three years ago, the Boy was failing math and, one night, in a fit of anxiety and anger, he shouted that he hated his life and that his “life sucks!”
My husband can not stand it when people throw themselves pity parties, so he immediately turned to me and demanded that I find the Boy several non-fiction books that are about people’s lives that actually “suck” so that our son could understand that meaning of a truly sucky life. So I thought and eventually selected for the Boy to read Night by Elie Wiesel and A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah.
Since that moment, the Boy has never said anything about a sucky life again. Because he read a book about a young man barely surviving one year of life in Auschwitz and the German Holocaust machine. And then the Boy read another book about a young man barely surviving three years as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.
He read books about horrible human experiences and realized that his life, while not great because he nearly failed math, was really not that horrible.
Now, the point I am trying to tease out of this post is that hope exists.
I could bow my head beneath the tragedies that are occurring around the world and will continue to happen around the world despite my best efforts.
I could shuffle backwards into the cones of my nautilus shell and just hide. Peek my head out every now and then when it’s time to go shopping and then just recede and live out my life in the darkness of my own shadow.
I could say that I can do nothing other than merely live and hope to God that I am not killed by some horrible means.
Or I could lift my head, could shake my fist at a meaningless flag and declare, “I will not be defeated!”
I am a person of very little consequence, much like Winnie-the-Pooh was a bear of very-little-brain. And maybe I’m even much more similar to Winnie-the-Pooh in terms of the size of my brain. I don’t know…don’t really care.
Because what I know is that I can still make a difference in my own way. I can choose to live out my life in hiding as I suggested earlier.
Or I can…
I WILL LIVE MY LIFE. And I will do so with absolute joy that will not be conquered by the terrorists and the evil men and women who happen to inhabit this world with me.
Because I am more than their little flags and their high-powered guns.
I am mortal. I will die someday.
But I will not be afraid. I will not shirk my duty towards the world in terms of doing what is good and right for humanity.
Because I believe in the eternal goodness within humanity. We are made in God’s image (hopefully, He doesn’t look too much like me because I couldn’t imagine God having my jiggly belly) which means that I believe we carry the goodness of God within us.
We are more than our collections of catty remarks and petty cruelties. We are more than deliberately turning the wrong way into a parking lot for the sake of a parking space. We are more than silly, angry statements on social media about situations that are nothing more than temporary anger about something foolish.
We are made up of gorgeous moments that, pieced together, are a brilliant mosaic of kindness and compassion.
Because, in my world, I have students who bounce around the room atop of yellow-uddered-yoga-balls.
In my world, I have students who cradle stuffed animal polar bears….
…Or one another when the darkness falls and hope is bleached by the bleakness of cruelty.
In my world, I have a son and daughter who look for opportunities to help other people without thought of reward. They will assist those in need and keep their eyes straight ahead and not look to the side to see if anyone is paying attention.
In my world, I have a noble and wonderful husband who gives of himself tirelessly and then, while he’s exhausted, give more. He donates hours towards the betterment of human kind, frequently at a detriment to himself because he refuses to bend to the endless, destructive fatigue that is literally forcing him to bend, at times.
I live in a world that is characterized by the hope that sings out through the bars and measures of the Invisible Children soundtrack, a song that always reminds me of the scene in which a young man is riding in the backseat of a car, his arm draped out the window, while he stares at the sun setting over the Ugandan horizon. He is lightly smiling, his face content.
I believe in hope. I believe in goodness. I believe that the world can be better and will be better. And I will never stop believing this. No matter what happens, I will always choose to do more than stop living this life and bow down to the anger and animosity of those who have dedicated their lives towards aggression, greed, and violence. Even if I were to die at the hands of terrorists or someone of their ilk, I will have died with my soul intact.
Someday, I am going to die, and I hope that the legacy I will leave behind is one of joy, of love, of compassion for all people. I have been touched by the lives of too many people and I can not let their stories die with me. I have seen the goodness within those who were tossed to the side and defined as a “menace.” I have watched an angry young man’s face soften when we talked about art.
On graduation day, a student who had been tossed aside by everyone, came to me, hugged me and told me that he loved me.
Hope, compassion, and love changed that young man. Nothing he read in a book, no essay he wrote did this.
Hope, goodness, compassion, love….they are the driving forces that change me, that still the angry words in my mouth and drive out my frustrations which can quickly seep into a toxic animosity. And I will channel them forward, do my best to do my best for the world.
I might not ever reach the planes of Africa, no matter how much I dream. I might not ever have the ability or the opportunity to teach in other nations and continue to do the best that I can do for others.
But I will do my best here, where I am. And maybe, just maybe, someday….