Pienso que se dará cuando el colombiano pueda vivir de forma digna, cuando con su trabajo pueda vivir cómodamente, mientras tenga hambre, no tenga sus necesidades básicas cubiertas, va a estar insatisfecho y esto va a traer actos de violencia. La paz no llega solo porque se desmovilice un group, sino cuando este país sea más equitativo con todos.
— Jorge Penagos, presidente de la Junta Comunal de Bolo Azul, vicepresidente de las 54 juntas comunales de Pradera
DO YOU REMEMBER when you first realized your mom was human?
Maybe you always knew that. Or maybe this is your rude awakening (surprise!).
My Eureka! moment came when I was home for the winter holidays during college. I must have just gotten into an argument with my mom (very likely). Or maybe our family had just had some tense moments – it was an emotionally fragile season for us.
All I remember is seeing something in my mom I’d never seen before: weakness.
Growing up, I thought of my mom as being in her own, one-person category. There were teachers, doctors, men, women… and then there was Mommy.
Mommy, the one who didn’t get sick. The one who always picked up when I called. The one who got me to piano lessons, violin lessons, swimming lessons, soccer games, and orchestra concerts on time – and packed me dinner-to-go.
Mommy, the one who forced me to drink a cup (8 fluid ounces – count ’em!) of warm water every morning. The one who always made me bring a sweater to the movies (how did she know!?). The one who won almost every argument, and if she didn’t, it was probably because she knew I’d admit defeat later.
Of course, I knew that my mother was a human being; she wasn’t an alien or a robot. At the same time, she wasn’t just a human being. She was Superwoman-Tiger Mom*. She was so efficient, so reliable, so strict, so intuitive. Even my childhood friends and their moms were a little scared of her.
So that day during the holidays, when my mom backed off of an argument and showed visible signs of grief, I was shaken.
And thus began a journey of discovering and embracing my mother’s human-ness. It was scary at first. I feared that recognizing my mom’s limitations would diminish my admiration for her.
Quite the contrary. My respect for her has multiplied. I have come to see her courage, her persistence, her generosity in spite of her limitations.
My mother is an ordinary woman who does ordinary things in an extraordinary way.
The way she lectures me? That’s the same honesty that keeps her writing and learning new things.
The way she nags me to blow-dry my hair? That’s the same tenacity that helped her survive those first years as an immigrant woman in the suburbs of Chicago.
The way she raised me and my sister? That’s the same pride that gave her victory over salespeople who tried, and continue to try, to take advantage of her.
The way she cared for her younger sisters during their childhood? That’s the same compassion she shows towards the women in her congregation.
When my mom reads this, she’ll probably say she’s made a lot of mistakes and she tried her best. True. That’s the point, isn’t it?
I realized that I was not going just because it seemed like a good idea, but because those who love me most sent me on my way with affection, support, and prayers.
– Henri Nouwen, ¡Gracias!
* Note: The term “tiger mother” was coined by Amy Chua in her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, in which she parodies her own attempts to follow the supposed strict manner of childrearing typically attributed to mothers in East Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Chua says her memoir is meant to be “ironic and self-mocking”. Here, I use the term “tiger mom” not to generate controversy or to put my mom in a box but to describe my previously limited view of her and her way of raising me. Thankfully, I’ve come to see she is so much more.
ON WEDNESDAY MORNING Pope Francis made his first official speech inEnglish. Standing before the people of the United States, the Pope proclaimed words of truth and wisdom: that the Creator never abandons us, that humanity has the ability to work together to build our common home, that we need to lift up the vulnerable and support inclusive models of development so that “brothers and sisters everywhere may know the peace… that God wills for all his children”. Pope Francis also said,
Climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation.
In light of that, I want to share some thoughts I jotted down on September 4 (with some revisions):
Porque de tal manera amó Dios al mundo…
I love relationships. I love forming them, nurturing them, witnessing them, talking about them. Today I learned about a neglected but essential relationship: my relationship with la tierra (the earth).
This week Alex, Emily and I attended a conference on climate change for the churches in Latin America and the Caribbean. I’ve been nerding out even though I’ve only understood about five words (when Sarah our site coordinator isn’t available to translate). It’s been truly humbling yet refreshing to hear the discussion from a non-US perspective – a non-G7 perspective, a developing world perspective. As one can imagine, the US is not popular in this discussion. What does interest me is the ways the major concerns of participants and their understanding of the issues differ from mine.
We discussed 10 sentences from the Pope’s encyclical on climate change and ranked the ones that were most important to us. We indicated our choices with stickers on a poster with all 10 phrases. The results surprised me. While I had placed most of my stickers next to the statements addressing waste and carbon emissions, the phrases that resonated with the most people addressed inequality, suffering and the role of youth in creating change.
In the climate action conversations I’ve had in the US, the focus often centered on reducing harm and increasing benefits – tangible, measurable solutions to fix the symptoms of climate change. Decrease greenhouse gases! Reduce waste!
Here it seems that greater emphasis is given to systemic causes of climate change: inequality, Western imperialism, and exploitation of resources by the wealthy at the expense of the poor. One of the action items stated at the conference was: Overconsumption of the wealthy must end, as it continues to inflate our ecological debt. People with less access bear the burden of excess. Indeed, one conference participant said that developing countries see the problems of climate change as caused by the G8 (now called the G7: the 6 richest countries in the world + the EU).
As a person from the US, a country that accounts for 5% of the world’s population but consumes 25% of the world’s energy, I want to melt into my chair. I feel the same shame last year when I volunteered at an international development event in a highly air-conditioned convention center, overflowing with food and wine – removed from record-high temperatures, water shortage, floods, droughts and the very people we sought to help.
But it’s not all finger pointing here. This morning Reverend Doctor Neddy Astudillo called us back to a relationship with the earth. She reminded us of the love of God for the cosmos, i.e. all creation. (“Cosmos” is the original word translated as “world” in our English Bibles.) Throughout Scripture God moves through nature: saves Balaam through a donkey, cures Naaman by the waters of the Jordan, feeds Elijah in the desert by the ravens, confirms God’s presence through a dove… God uses natural phenomena to speak to us.
What I didn’t realize until today is that nature has dignity, in and of itself, because nature was created by God and proclaims the glory of God. The earth is living, breathing, and groaning for restoration.
For God so loved the world…
Jesus did not come just to die for humanity’s sin or to even fix humanity’s brokenness. Jesus came because God loved all creation – humans and everything else God made.
Sin breaks not only our relationships with God and each other but also our relationship with nature. For millennia we have dominated nature in harmful ways. And the maltreatment of nature has often come hand-in-hand with oppression. Inequality, imperialism and exploitation are all manifestations of broken relationships with God and one another.
The good news is this: God so loved the world that God sent Jesus to restore all relationships. God’s project is the fullness of life. For this we toil, so that the project isn’t just words but truth. God is true, and God will finish God’s project.
You cannot run from your story.
Your story is what holds you together. It’s the collection of experiences that have made you who you are. To devalue your story is to dismiss the individuals you’ve encountered, the places you’ve visited and the lessons you’ve learned. Without a doubt there are certain parts of your story you’d rather bury: friends who manipulated you, friends whom you betrayed, homes that made you weep, words you shouldn’t have said – the list goes on. Beneath even these memories are fears you don’t want to think about, because giving them any attention would make them come alive. There are things you’d just rather erase from your story.
But it doesn’t work that way. Your story is not a Word document with uniform letters and red squigglies underlining every error. Your story is not a string of witty social commentary squeezed into 140 characters. Your story is not a grid of perfect photos with filters and clever captions. These things can be replicated or deleted in an instant, but your story, YOUR story, is incorruptible.
Your story started before you, and it will continue after you. Your body will see decay, and your journey on earth will end, but somehow stories defy the rules of time. After all, your story is not just about you.
When you begin to embrace the history that preceded you and the legacy you’re carrying, you start to find meaning you’d never thought existed. You begin to realize that the tragedies of your childhood, the awkwardness you’re going through and the uncertainties you can’t comprehend are at once small and significant. You are one in seven billion people who breathe and eat and poop just like you do, yet you are one in seven billion people who breathes and eats and poops exactly like you. The point is, when your story becomes part of a larger plot, becomes more than the only narrative you know, you realize how special it is and how integral it is to other people’s stories. You realize how much help you received and offered along the way.
But listen closely. The value of your story does not come from how you think of it or how other people think of it. Yes, your opinion matters, and you need to accept and share your story. But your story isn’t important because of what it proves or demonstrates. Your story is important because YOU are important.
After the Creator formed the first male and the first female in the divine Image, God said, “It was very good.” It was good. Whole. Important. And then many, many years later, God took God’s Image, combined it with the form of the male Jesus and entered into a specific time period, setting and group of characters – a story. God’s story, intertwined with the stories of all creation, validating the ones who reflect God’s glory.
You are important.
Know your story. Uncover it. Be okay with it – not just the valiant parts, but ALL of it. A mirror can’t reflect clearly unless you see the dust and wipe it off. You know the mirror will get dirty again, but it’s okay, because when the dust comes back, you’ll wipe it off again, and again. It will be tiresome at times, but you can’t stop it. But no matter how dusty or clear that mirror is, your reflection is still there. You are there.
No matter how dirty or clean your story gets, no matter how little truth you want to see, you are here. Two ears, one nose and a bunch of eyelashes. An intentional blend of customs, quirks, conundrums and chromosomes. One in seven billion.
You are here, and your story is now.