Written in 2009
When my daughter left home for college, she asked me to promise not to move anywhere for at least a year so she could come “home” if needed. I was willing to make this commitment, knowing that at the end of it, I would be ready for the move I had been dreaming of for several years. I wanted to live and work in Africa.
With her departure, the minutia of parenting evaporated. I no longer kept to a meal schedule, or did laundry every other day, or needed to monitor her comings and goings. This was both a liberation and a great loss. I cherished having her around, with her friends dropping by, listening to and/or spectating the dramas of teenage life and loves. No one could excoriate an errant boyfriend with more vitality than her friends, a loyal group of talented, funny young women. Our home was a haven for that energy.
I filled the empty space with work that fed my passion. For four years, I’d been riveted by the escalating chaos in Sudan. As the genocide in Darfur shifted into gear, I sought ways to replace my outrage with meaningful action. I could not tolerate the unanswered brutality, kept pinching myself that, in spite of all the “never agains”, a full-blown premeditated mass slaughter was happening on my ‘watch.’ To be a conscious adult in such a time meant having to do whatever it took to make the killing stop. I grieve that it does not, but I don’t give up.
The reason that many people don’t change their lives when “hole in the fence” presents is that takes a concerted work to jettison the accumulated trappings of adult life. We’d managed to buy a house. I finally had a collection of decent furnishing that didn’t previously belong to someone else. I’ve saved my daughter’s artwork and baby clothes, the sports gear, the miscellaneous tools and home-care devices, the photos, books, CDs , the files of tax returns and once-important documents, and all that weird stuff you save to cleverly craft into some artistic statement … one day. In the end, it’s mostly baggage that sucks you in place like uber-gravity.
Fairness and justice seemed to have lost ground on our watch in our global village, and we still don’t have a clear line on what the hell we’re doing here. When the irrationality of it begins to weigh you down, get yourself promptly into something you consider important. You can transform the world one life at a time – and that’s really the best most of us can hope for.
What do you carry forward?
Turn off the TV. Its purpose is to distribute anxiety. Make your own news.
Never lose the capacity for outrage, but learn how to channel it productively.
What do you need?
To give – mentoring, resources, service, the wisdom of experience – at any age.
It takes a lot of persistance to make a ripple of change, and you might not live long enough to enjoy the eventual wave. But life is short and you’ve gotta get to it.