How to Recover Your Heart

September 30, 2008

“The city will be rebuilt on her ruins.” Jeremiah 30:18

(Pamela, age 16, raped, with daughter Maria–they live in our house)

Here, they do not cry.
But I watch an Acholi girl cry.
I think in the end, what scares her most, what scares all of them, all of us, most, is being alone.
I think of her—being left. They promised to stay, but left. I think of the moment she knew she was pregnant and how a place inside her wanted to die. Not wanted. That belly, a scarlet letter.
And home is now a place of disapproving looks and stares.

I think of Pamela, or Irene, or Beatrice….who didn’t have a choice.
I think of what it would be like to give birth alone. To know, that this world is just something to be faced—in loneliness.

On her own.
And I think for a minute, I know what that feels like.

Just because they are Acholi, just because they are strong and they’ve learned to be strong, doesn’t mean they still don’t bleed.

Sometimes life is not kind to us. But what they learn here is that still, they must make a way. Here, only the strong survive.

But it costs something. That bravery, to get up—try to find some work, try to find food for the baby, try to move, try to breathe.

In the surviving, the loss of heart. The loss of hope for tenderness or the putting back together of dismantled dreams.

In our child mother group on Thursday we talked of strengthening ourselves in God, of putting faith in the promise, even though we can’t see how.

We spoke of being thankful for what we have in the midst of our lack. Some said they are thankful for our time together. And I cannot see it, cannot see how sitting in a circle for a few hours and sharing, can help them in the desperateness of their situations.

Most days, I feel like I’m failing.

And yet…I keep going. And they keep coming and I find that most times when I’m talking to them, I’m also talking to myself something my soul needs to hear.

In one week we move in together. The toilet is finally in the house. The walls look more white than brown. The oven has been bought. The beds are almost done being made. Soon, we’ll hang curtains and make it look like a home.

And I’m scared to death as we embark on this—the passage into becoming a family.

But as much as they might need this…I’m realizing I need it too. To believe for them, and myself, that some dreams come true.

We do not need another program, another handout, another promise, another one who will not stay.

We do not need charity. We need love.

We need the kind that God gives, in constancy, in excess.

So that maybe someday we’ll find we are not just moving, not just breathing, but that somewhere along the line, we recovered our hearts.

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