The first time it happened I was standing in a shack raising money for the homeless. The two walked up to me–a man and a woman, maybe my age, smiling, too exuberant–and with their eyes attached longingly to mine, they introduced themselves and asked, “Can we pray for you?”
I’ll admit: I was taken aback. All my life the idea of “praying for others” was an insult to their identity and an affirmation of the prayer-maker’s superiority: “You’re Jewish? I’ll pray for you. You’re gay? I’ll pray for you. You’re a sinner. I’ll pray for you.”
When night fell, I stood outside in a valley of bricks, red blocks crisscrossed in white zigzags that somehow tied us to the earth yet seemed celestial emblazoned in the moonlight. Tall buildings sprouted around us like mountains, sheltering our silence, but still the wind whispered to us, sending cold thoughts crawling across our skin.
This is a paragraph. It should be talking about interesting things–such as how health care systems sometimes overlook obvious actions to prevent the spread of disease, how the media influence rape culture by ignoring the men in society, even how concepts such as fear, love, and God are intricately related–instead it is none of these things.
Instead this is a paragraph that expresses discontent. Instead of writing about issues that matter–such as hunger and homelessness, the significance of voting even in the most minute elections, the implications of advocacy and community building on campus–it simply mentions that none of these things have been mentioned.
The irony is that, for each of these things, if I don’t already have a post written, I have the ideas ready to share–but I have been too busy, I admit, to remember they’re there.
I’ve been riding the struggle bus lately, and I’ve been riding it far: Despite the simple tasks I’ve been given on the conference steering committee, I can’t seem to get a single thing done. I thought perhaps I just don’t care as much as I want to–and although that’s partly true, the bigger issue is I’m afraid.
I’m afraid to push myself out of my comfort zone. I’m afraid to risk failure, and if I never try, I can never fail. And I’m afraid to honestly ask myself why I do care–because just maybe I really don’t care at all.
But I’m tired of seeing the same tasks on my to-do lists. I’m tired of feeling I’ve failed myself, failed the committee, and failed the people we’re trying to help. I’m tired of being afraid. So I’m pulling the whistle and departing the struggle bus right here, right now.
I began interning with NCPIRG in November and just days ago I joined the steering committee for the Resolve to Fight Poverty Annual Conference. I joined during our New Voters Project with the hope of helping out where needed, especially with our sustainability projects.
Life surprised us with a reshuffling, and to keep working with our campus coordinator, we pulled together behind the No Hunger, No Homelessness action kit–which was great. We raised a fair amount of money for Feeding America through the National Hunger Clean-Up, and now many of us are coordinating a national conference. That’s not something most people can brag about–not that I’m bragging.
Not only this, my NCPIRG family is just that–family–and I want to keep working with them and helping our group to grow and make a difference, on campus, in our community, and in our entire country. Which is all good and great, mind you, except that since I joined the group, I’ve been struggling to answer a pretty important question:
It was my third year doing NaNoWriMo and I wanted new music to help me set the scene for my story. Gothic. Dark and stormy. Evil. So I searched different forums for suggestions, and when I went to a nearby used music store, I came home with H.I.M. and Skillet and maybe a couple others. I quickly realized, for setting or not, Skillet was an awesome group. I’d loved their music on the radio without even knowing it was theirs.
After two or three, maybe four listens through the CD, I stopped hearing the lyrics and only heard the sounds: the beat, the tempo, the edge I wanted in my story. As the words faded into the back of mind, I would sing them mindlessly… “So many nations with so many hungry people,” I’d say, my hands typing away, “So many homeless scrounging around for dirty needles; On the rise, teen suicide…”
Then today, walking home from work, I had my iPod on shuffle and it threw their sound to my ears once more. I wasn’t singing this time (it draws looks), but I was listening–and I realized, for all these years I’ve been singing their songs, I hadn’t heard a word they said.