Distraction or Action? Fasting for Zimbabwe
Yesterday, in support of my goal of finishing a first draft of the writing for my book in the next 90 days (oh jeez! I just said it publicly, like I said I would in my last post- now I have to do it! Oh well, no turning back now…), I made a commitment to cut out as many distractions as possible from my life. I sent an email to some folks with whom I've created a local event saying I need to bow out for now, I decided to let other folks handle a correspondence in which I'd had limited input anyway, and I committed to deleting all email notices from social networks and to only check those sites once or twice a week. Pretty proud of myself, I went to bed with a feeling of conviction and satisfaction about staying focused.
Well, you know how, when we make a declaration to the Universe, it does everything it can to challenge the strength of that declaration? It teases our commitment and conviction by bringing us more of what we say we are giving up, less of what we say we are creating, and frustrates our efforts in order to build our muscle of resolve. At least, that's what I believe. So… of course, I get up this morning, and after doing my "morning things," go to check my email and there in bold, black letters is a plea to join in solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe by pledging to fast for a day.
What am I supposed to do with that? Delete it? Ignore it? Save it for later?
There went my resolve to not get distracted, to stay on point with my daily routine and get my writing done before ten o'clock. Yes, I allowed myself to get caught up in a "distraction" this morning for about thirty minutes by signing the pledge to fast in support of the situation in Zimbabwe, sending email notices to as many folks as I could and creating an event on Facebook to support this critical cause. Hey, it only took thirty minutes!
For about ten minutes I felt bad about it, beat myself up a little bit and admonished myself that I must not get caught up in things that take me away from "my work." Then, I realized a few things: one- that, if I don't do something by participating in this cause, I have no right to complain about what's happening over there; two- it is "my work" to get involved in a way that is doable for me; and three- that I could write about this situation and incorporate it into my daily writing time. After all, I have had a lot of strong feelings, thoughts and words about what is happening in Zimbabwe in the last couple of years, and it's about time I put my writing where my mouth is, so to speak.
I decided, in that moment, that, instead of beating myself up for being "distracted," I would turn a distraction into an action! I know that there is the strong possibility that this is just a really good excuse for extraneous behavior, but I'm choosing not to see it that way. I mean, come on, I cannot sit here in my comfortable home, eating my breakfast, sipping my tea, enjoying the beauty of this winter morning and just do nothing. That would be unpardonable.
The thing is, I feel particularly connected to what is happening there because, when my daughter had the incredible opportunity to travel in southern Africa with an awe-inspiring program, The Traveling School, the driver and cook for the semester were from Zimbabwe. Japhet's daughter even joined the girls for several weeks at the end of the trip. I feel as if I have a personal connection to them through my daughter, and that I have a responsibility to do whatever I can to support them.
From time to time, I have asked my daughter about what is happening with them and if there is anything I can do to help, but up until now it seemed like nothing can be done. The other day, when I asked again, she said we could buy each of their families a cow- that having animals, particularly cows, is a really helpful thing for families there. How do we do it, though? If we send money, that only gets confiscated by corrupt officials. We certainly can't send a cow, and even aid organizations can't seem to get through.
In other words, how do we begin to make a dent in what seems to be an overwhelming steel wall of Mugabe's resistance to aid, to the reality of the cholera epidemic and to helping his people in any real way. It's like a huge Wall of Denial. We have had countless conversations about this issue and it seems so complex, and it always colored by the fact that I don't understand this resistance. I judge it, make him wrong and speak in frustration about the decisions he has made and the things he has said about his own country. It seems to me like he doesn't care.
"So," I ask myself, "What can I do to move from my own place of resistance and judgment to a place of openness and true service from over 10,000 miles away? What can I do, here in the small town of Avery, California, to help? How can I make peace with the one in me who is in denial, who resists change and who turns away help when she most needs it?" These are questions that I believe must be asked by each one of us who wants to help or "do good" in the world.
I think that, in the end, I must remember that I am everything, that I am capable of just as much horror, neglect and abuse as that man across the globe. If I were given that much power, would I, too, abuse it? Would I, too, turn away from the "hungry masses" with a wave of my hand, dismissing the realities that are plainly in view? Or would I be a "leader for and of the people," like I continue to hope and believe our new president is being? I don't know… and that scares me. I have been more of a sheep than I care to admit sometimes, losing my voice when I see injustices in public, not standing up for my oppressed brothers and sisters because of a multitude of stories and fears in my own mind. But I do believe that, if I own and embrace the possibility that I could be just as cruel and ignorant as that, then I believe I am taking the first step toward being able to be truly "helpful."
So, I "pick myself up, dust myself off" and begin the work of seeking out the dark corners of my heart, bringing them to the light and feeling the attendant feelings that arise. I start by alerting as many people as I can to this action, this fast for solidarity, and write about it, post it to my blog, sharing it with the world in my own small way. I commit now (again in public- the only way to keep myself accountable!) to seeing what I can do to raise money to buy a cow each for Crispen and Japhet's families. I commit now to living up to the fullness of my purpose on the planet in every way possible so that all can have a fair shot at a good life.