If you asked somebody, they might tell you I care. I’m the girl who cares about the world’s great injustices. I’m the girl who lays in the dark on her bedroom floor sinking tears into carpet fibers for months on end after a week-long mission trip. Yes, I’m the girl. The one who spontaneously gives more money than she should to the sad fly faces online and in catalogs. The one who makes a donation to some relevant global nonprofit instead of giving you a real birthday gift, yes I’m the one.
Each morning I read the latest on CNN World and for the larger part of the past 2 months, that’s mainly been about Iraq and Syria and the extremist group on nobody’s lips and everybody’s televisions, ISIS. And here is where I confess that yesterday was the first morning in quite a few mornings that I cared.
If you are reading this, I think you are one of three people.
- You might be the person who thrives in oblivion. You’ve heard the word ISIS, you’re pretty sure you hate ISIS, you aren’t entirely sure what it stands for, but you know about the hate and you leave it at that. You shake your head solemnly, keep your eyes downcast and pick the lint off of your sweater whenever anyone mentions it in conversation. You live in oblivion and you love it there, because it doesn’t require much work and it’s happy there; and the problems, you can touch.
- Or you’re the person, like myself, who reads every morning, knows just enough about just enough conflicts to sound like you care enough; but in actuality, what you read changes next to nothing about how you think, pray and live each day. We are the scariest, maybe. We know and we know and we can toss it in the kitchen sink with our coffee mug each morning because who can carry something like that around with them?
- Or you might be the person who has it all just right. You have that balance between knowing and caring and doing and telling and you have hope. I’d love to meet you. And that is not sarcasm.
When I was 19, I shook hands with a 47 year old Haitian man named Manno. He had dug a hole and was chiseling away at rock 7 feet deep into the earth and his family had died and his skin was like leather and he was digging and digging because God told him he would hit water. God told him he would bring water to the entire village. I stared at his black-blooded hands and his yellow eyes and my heart went out to him, it really did. It must’ve, because later on that night as we gathered around our compound with our sanitized hands and bright eyes and plates of rice and fried yucca and fresh fruit, I skipped over the water jug. Solidarity, I thought. And don’t judge me because I was young and still didn’t know what to do with things like despair and shame. And I thought my heart was going out to him. And after 4 trips, eventually I think it really did. I’ve not only read the horrors of this world, but I’ve seen a few. A few is enough really and here’s the thing– it comes on like a toothache but all over my skin, maybe to my bones– here’s the thing: I can live my life as if I never saw a thing.
I can, I promise you. Because last week I [knowingly] almost spent the money that I had promised to Water for People to buy Chinese food. We are the scariest, maybe. The fact that I can see and hear and know, and still live my day to day life as if the world’s biggest problems are my own, is terrifying. And let’s not kid ourselves enough to think that we push those realities out of our day to day thinking so that we can “get by”, so that we can “get on”. No, we push it out because we are undeniably selfish, self-serving, self-oriented beings. And so we live in the dark or pretend to live in the dark about reality and we say it’s because we need to be happy. We can’t dwell in the dark. We want to feel happy. We want to feel light. We want to be where it’s light. But here it is plainly: I live in the dark and I mistake it for light because Scandal is premiering and I get to wear scarves again and all pumpkin everything and the truth is I like to feel light more than I like to be it.
And so maybe I or you don’t know the light well enough to identify it or Him.
That is what’s true.
We walk around and we shake our heads at CNN and mumble god oh god we lift them up and we might even gasp at the hot new footage of this beheading or that bombing and what evil what evil but if we could just snap out of our self-absorbed, mostly feigned disgust for just a few seconds, maybe we’d realize that ISIS is not the truest evil at work here. The reality is, nothing is black and white. People are driven to desperation, to brutality, to evil. And it is evil, yes. And what am I?
The truest evil here is me. Because I know me.
It’s me sitting on my couch every night watching Grey’s Anatomy and falling asleep while I pray and only pray that God just makes me happy in my new apartment. It’s me moaning to my friend that I am “starving” as I pass Chipotle at noon and my morning cereal passes from my stomach to my bowels and I’ve never really known hunger but I’ve cradled tiny bodies that have. It’s a congregation of 20 or more Christians gathered on comfy couches in dimly lit rooms and not a single person mentions that the majority of our “brothers and sisters in Christ” are hiding out in basements, losing their homes, children, and lives for their faith. It’s not just the brutal tactics of extremist armies or mass genocide or human trafficking that represent the pinnacle of human depravity. Maybe if we took 5 minutes to care and to think, we’d look down at our own well manicured hands and find that it’s us. The non-carers. The unfathomably self absorbed. The people who know everything and it changes nothing. The people who know nothing and don’t care to change anything.
We are the truest evil maybe.
And if that leaves a bad taste in your mouth, I’m sorry and I’m not–go wash it out with a pumpkin spice latte.
Because I know what you’re thinking, what a drag Cole, we can’t possibly just walk around all day dwelling in the dark sad realities of the world. Well good news, I’m not telling you to. This is not a call to walk around with sad eyes and pumpkin latte-less stomachs or angry eyes and picket signs. It’s a call to walk as if you care– as if you think– about more than your own brief and fleeting singular life. As if you care and think about more than your own brief and fleeting singular life. As if you care and think. As if you care. As if you think.
A man throws his crying daughter haphazardly through the doors of a low flying helicopter to escape a mountainside of bullets and bombs and the evil in me is so deep, so enmeshed with everything that I am, that I can live my life as if I never knew a thing.
I can live in a different reality.
I can live my whole life– without challenge–feeling light instead of being it.
“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness. 35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.” Luke 11:33-35
an article that’s less of an angsty rant and more like practical and encouraging steps to live like you care (I’m still working on articulating that bit of things) >> http://www.relevantmagazine.com/reject-apathy/worldview/justice-isnt-just-action-justice-way-life
***I do not condemn Scandal, scarves, or pumpkin spice lattes. They are beautiful things to be enjoyed. But they are not everything.