Saturday, July 12, 2014. Muted thoughts this morning, observations about life. Like muted wind. Sunlight muted by clouds. Just not muted mechanical noise as I sit outside my apartment as very old and worn air conditioners fill the air with roars and drones and high-pitched screams and whistles echoing shrilly like giant boiling teapots from wall to wall between these brick apartment buildings.
There will be no quiet here until this brief summer passes and the frigid air again grips the great northern plains in long, long winter.
Yet as I think about my days, there are many glistening moments. Just as I did during the seven years I lived on the Mexican-American border line in Arizona, I love the visits of young children. I keep a tray filled with water and all kinds of small toys outside my door on this cement slab. The children, mostly resettled refugees from Nepal and Africa, stop by in little groups to get their hands wet, pouring water to and fro from this into that.
Children without guilt or guile. Futures of possibilities awaiting them in this rich land of America they know nothing about except that they and their loved ones are safe, fed, can go to a doctor, have a roof over their head and are not passing suffering, starving, dying humanity alongside the roads. Unlike where they came from.
Really, there are nothing but stories. We live with the stories of our ancestors as their lives found their way to influence our own.
One I heard yesterday as a young man gave me a lift home from a friend’s house. An energetic, so-positive young man of 27 shared a part of his story with me during that 10-minute drive. He is in Fargo for a few weeks from Fresno, California teaching a group of Native American young people from the terribly distressed Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota and from the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota how to start junior youth groups in their areas for young people ages 11-15. To give them hope. To give them direction. To help give them a better future. (The youth suicide rate on Standing Rock, once the ‘forced’ home of Sitting Bull, the great chief who beat Custer at Little Big Horn, is the highest in the nation. Obama visited that reservation on June 13th of this year.)
This young man told me his mother’s father was killed in a car accident by a drunk driver when his mother was 8 months old. Her mother had to go to work full-time and left the baby during the day (her two older sisters were in school) with a babysitter who tortured, tormented, abused her. It took too long for the abuse to be detected and stopped.
In a car filled to overflowing with the gentle love this young man has for his mother – now in her 60s – I heard him tell of the lifelong struggles of his mother from the abuse in her early life. “She never abused her own children. She did her best. But that kind of trauma cannot be erased in one generation. I did suffer because of my mother’s suffering.”
“She never fit into the world. She had a hard time. She supports herself giving piano lessons.” And after a long, tender pause, “She has a musical mind.”
I heard another story yesterday from an 85-year-old woman whose father immigrated nearly 100 years ago to homestead a farm in the middle of North Dakota because he refused to raise a family in war-torn Syria, place of his birth.
This woman, who still keeps foster children in her home, has over more than 50 years had many dozens of parentless refugee children pass through her home as she cared for them until they could be settled permanently into this area. “Why,” she voiced her tormented plea, “do so many people hate one another around this world? Why do wars and killing continue? Why is there so much greed and corruption? Why can’t the religions agree?”
This woman, who has been a member of the Baha’I Faith for all of her adult life, already has the best explanations possible in this lifetime for why humans act the way that they do and for what it will take for peace to finally encircle this planet. She continues to work ceaselessly for the betterment of the world.
Yet she cannot stop asking the questions because she will never stop caring.
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