can you hear me now?


    There are days that writing comes easy and days it doesn’t. There are also a lot of days in between where I find something to say once I get myself up the stairs and put my fingers on the keyboard. Every so often comes a day like today where the issue is not whether it’s easy or hard to write as much as it is whether I feel like I have something to say.

    When I get to a day like this, the first fear I have to face is the prospect that I’m on the precipice of depression again. I’ve had moments over the past few days — more like a week, I guess — where I can feel the depression lurking around the edges of my life like a stalker in a Lifetime movie. That it can’t find a way to get inside gives me some hope that my new medication is working and for that I’m grateful. This week marks six years since I took my first dive off the deep end, as it were. Sometimes I think the pull of my depression is as much muscle memory as anything else. And then, of course, this particular January has offered its share of crisis and uncertainty, creating the opportunity for a symphony of emotions.

    I’m also struggling to write tonight because I don’t feel very good at what I’m trying to do. I’ve been writing about Darfur because I really want to have a conversation about how I (we?) can respond. When I wrote about the war in Iraq a week or so ago, I yelled so loudly through the screen that I hardly gave anyone a chance to respond, so few did. My las two posts about the genocide in Sudan garnered two comments. I realize way more people read this blog than comment, and I also realized how much I hoped to hear from more folks when I felt my disappointment at seeing zero comments on yesterday’s post.

    This is starting to sound as though I fishing for comments, which is not my point. Let me make my point clear: I’m writing about the genocide in Darfur because I want to have a conversation about what we can do beyond calling and writing any and everyone in Washington asking them to wake up. I want to talk about what it means to pray for them. I want to talk about what to do with my sense of helplessness and hopelessness as I look at how the world treats Africa. I want to know how to say all of this in a way that is invitational rather than declarative.



    1. I can hear you.

      “Hear our prayer. Make our action swift.”

      The situation in Sudan has been going on for so long without anyone, excepting Ethiopia (which has its own problems but a lot of style), jumping in for fear of making it worse. How should an outside agency (the UN, some coalition army, some ‘force’) attend to what is happening in Sudan? How do you break the cycle of repressive government and tribal warfare with peaceful means?

      I admire the musicians and the performance of Verdi’s “Requiem” (and the backstory on that was interesting). But do we want George Bush leading the way? Is it up to our Congress to decide how to “fix” Sudan?

      Being very much on the outside as we are, we can only pray. We can rant and rave and get angry, for sure, and some are trying to raise money (to what end is unclear), but at our level, from this vantage point, we can only pray.

      So, Milton, how can pray for the people of Sudan, Darfur, and Africa in general? We can’t forget the cocoa farms in the cote d’Ivoire either. The world is screaming for help.

      But we are constantly in motion. As soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning, you are off to do something somehwere. We hear the sounds of Darfur but they can be lost on the wind as we struggle to meet our own needs.

      I think at some point, we must suspend everything we are in the middle of doing and simply stop and listen and pray to God that our collective cries be heard over the wind and across the waters.

      We have to stop to pray.

    2. Steve,

      I hear you and I struggle with what you’re saying because I don’t know what prayer does by itself. I’m not saying it isn’t valuable; I really don’t know what I think it does without action of some sort. I don’t want to leave it in the hands of Bush or the UN or whoever else and I don’t want to concede that we are too far away to have an impact. I also want to do more than raise money. Maybe what I’m praying for is that my life would be upended to the point that the pain that appears out of reach would feel as real and as urgent as my own.

      I will keep praying and keep searching too.


    3. At the risk of sounding like a horrible person, I have felt recently like I don’t have time to worry about the Sudan.

      I’m not a heartless person. Let me explain: there is a family in my neighborhood who are facing a tremendous crisis. The parents are from Sierra Leone. They have lived in the U.S. for 12 years. Four children have been born here, including twins in the same grade as my twins at school. The father has been detained by immigration since October, seemingly based upon his being invovled in an overthrow of the Sierra Leonean government 15 years ago. I have been scrambling to find people who can help pay their mortgage and get them groceries [and figure out how much money I can give them]while their only breadwinner is in jail. And praying for a good outcome [staying in this country] for these exceedingly nice Christian people.

      At the same time, an acquaintance had a baby at 23 weeks and the child, now 1 month old, still has a lot of struggle ahead of her, and no guarantee of good results. This couple waited and hoped for years for a baby, and I know what that is like. I worry and pray for that child every day, even though I barely know the parents.

      Add my mother-in-law’s new chemo and a friend whose father just died of lung cancer, and sometimes I just feel like I can’t worry about anything else right now.

      And, of course, I feel terrible about feeling that way. I’m not the one facing deportation, my child is not in ICU, I’m not on chemo and no one in my family has just died. But I feel a lack of energy to think too much about any other troubles.

      It’s that sense of helplessness and hopelessness.

    4. Lisa,

      You are not a terrible person. Thanks for your honesty and vulnerability. I’m certainly not trying to be the regional distributor for guilt. As I read all that is going on with and around you, I realized part of what I’m asking is how do I find the kind of personal investment you are incarnating with the people in Darfur?

      I’m also responding to what is pulling on my heart these days. On Sunday, one of our church members talked about his sense of calling to help the folks along the Mississippi Gulf Coast; now he is leading an adult mission trip there next summer. You are meeting the needs in front of your face in these days. I’m pulled by Darfur.

      We’re all in this together.


    5. Milton, these last two comments brought this dialogue to a very tangible place for me. I confess to a very real awareness of a lack of motivation to comment on your Darfur posts; mainly because I feel uneducated and only mildly stirred by the very real crisis there. It just seems so far away from the reality that is my life. I know that I SHOULD care, but while I take care of my children and the needy, hurting, desperate people around me, I feel quite inadequate to even consider the grave, life-or-death issues of people on another continent. I am not proud of that at all, but it is the truth.

      You must keep telling the stories, because none of us will come to care unless somebody tells us why it matters. My eyes have been opened to many things in the past year, many of which are due to the community of people I interact with here. Undoubtedly your passionate posts will do the same.

      Realizing that this is your passion, and that you are simply fanning the flames and telling the world, frees me to support and pray for and encourage and perhaps enable you to do what you can, as our representative to take care of this need as you are led. In the same, I guess I trust that you would support and pray for and encourage me to do that to which God has called me here in my corner of the world.

      Regardless, I appreciate your words on a daily basis.

    6. Thanks, Beth.

      I know my cicle of care has been widened by reading your blog and others. I also know what compassion fatigue feels like. And I know those people are dying. That’s a lot to live with for all of us.


    Leave a Reply