Tears almost instantly begin to gather on my lower eyelids when I think of the chance to see Dajhima, Achta, Amhoush, and the other women of Darfur. I can see their eyes so clearly in my mind – when they smile and when they speak of the horrors they have survived.
They are survivors.
Strong, dignified survivors.
I feel like we have failed them. When I write that sentence a sharp pain stabs at my chest. What I mean to write but am afraid to admit is that even I have failed them. I am the one carrying the stories and pictures, and video testimonies of some of the strongest women and children that I know. And I have failed to figure out how to leverage them to create change. I can’t be angry at myself anymore. I am tired of expending energy trying to figure out why change has not swept the world over after knowing the suffering. I can only imagine a better place and work in little ways to create a ripple effect.
I imagine it as a great wave of change, a tsunami of spirit and compassion that sweeps through our streets, dirt roads, forests, rice paddies, and desert sand dunes. But gentle, like a family of butterflies fluttering to and fro, up and down and around the hardship, gathering the emotion and spreading compassion like pollen to all the places they travel. Each butterfly delicately pauses to whisper the story of the burning village and bombs to the hip, well-educated city dweller gardening on their patio. The gentleness of the butterfly brings the person close, and the shock of the story begs them to ask, “how could this happen?” More importantly something is sparked and that person is changed. The butterfly gathers with the others to continue to sweep the world until all our hearts have been touched.
What has kept me going through the years of working for Darfur and to improve human rights in the world is knowing that each person I have met, whether in Darfur, or Thailand, or in North Dakota, is a distinct, unique, deserving individual with strengths, weaknesses, dreams, and a reality. I want all of their realities to be free of violence and full of freedom, peace and equality.
I have faith we can do this. All we have to do is open ourselves to everyone living on this planet. Yes, it’s painful. I don’t promise a rose garden. There is pain and suffering. When we feel it strike deep in our hearts and creep up to our aching throat and out through our voices and tears then we are changed. Then we will be sparked to act, to push the ripple of change outward.
Let us open ourselves.