Her black skin was dull, lackluster, hard to see in the dim light. Before I really saw anything else, before I saw the body that we mistake to be the person, I saw her eyes, the eyes that are the window to the soul that is the person. Her eyes, her soul dull, lifeless, overwhelmed, hopeless, and across thousands of miles, my soul connected with her soul.
In the dimness of the hut, I pulled my eyes from hers and forced myself to see more. It was then that I saw her thin, rag-clad arms were opened wide as Jesus’ were on the Cross, only her arms were not nailed to a cross, they were full, of children.
Five boys of various ages stood so close to her, skin pressed so closely to hers to each other’s that it was hard to tell where one thin body ended and another began. The children standing straight like bowling pins – only without the curves of the pins; there was no fat on them. Ragged clothing hung loosely from their wire thin bodies.
Did I gasp aloud or bury it deep inside me? I didn’t know, but my eyes were drawn back to hers.
A single mom of five boys.
In a very different land, in a very different life, with what would most likely be a very different ending to our stories.
And I began praying for that woman right there and have almost daily for the past three years.
I will never know her name, but it matters not…
God knows her name.
In truth, I never met her. She was one of many slides in a Compassion International slideshow I watched at a local non-denominational church I visited a few times while struggling with my Catholic faith. I had gone to see some famous and talented Christian speakers, but the individual who made the biggest impact on me was this woman in the slide.
My ex’s failure to pay child support and attorney fees, the loss of our home, the exhaustion I had from running three jobs and going to school…none of it mattered suddenly.
Because overpowering the hopelessness in the woman’s eyes, I saw more.
I saw a Love. This woman loved her children, for as little time as they may have together, for as difficult as their lives might be, she was going to Love them as Good as was humanly possible.
And her Love was reflected back by the arms loosely draped around her and by the closeness of their bodies.
But there was more too.
There was a fierceness about her.
A solid, unshakable determination.
She was a mama lion in that harsh land, and she WOULD protect those children even with her own life.
That woman in the slide has made me think again and again of how different my life, of how different my boys’ lives, would be if we lived almost anywhere else in the world and of how blessed we are to live here – in America, the Land of the Free, the Land of Opportunity.
And I think of how often people take that freedom and opportunity for granted.
And I promised that woman in the hut, the woman whose name is known by God, that I would not take my freedom and opportunity for granted, that I would work hard, and I would make a difference in this world.
Because this world is not about ME!
It is about something greater – and we seem to have forgotten that,
But I won’t.
Today, a few days after Memorial Day here in America, I cannot express my gratitude to God for placing me in America and to the Troops and their families who give up their freedoms to give us ours.
Today and every day, I will pray that the woman in the hut and I can exchange gifts across the oceans, across the miles.
I don’t know what her faith is, but I pray that she has the faith that has given me strength and compassion, and also the faith that has given me Hope. I pray that people there provide her with Hope for a better tomorrow, if not in this life, then in the next.
And from her, I would ask to receive gifts she has – that undying Love, that unconditional Love, even in hard circumstances.
And that fierceness. I cannot imagine what her life is like. In truth, I don’t want to, but I must hold onto that fierceness that does not allow us to give up, that fierceness that will have me fighting for a better tomorrow for myself and the people I know, but also for those thousands of miles away whom I will Love but never meet – in this lifetime, but whom I can Hope to meet in Love in the next.
What will you be fierce about today?