Grieving…

GrievingThere is a grief going on. A deep, visceral grief that hangs heavy on my shoulders as I stumble through my days. It hauntingly echos in my soul while I rest in the night. Like a child shrouded in her father’s winter coat, I cannot shake it off if I try. This heaviness surrounds and runs deep within my being. A groaning has found me and I try to give it words so those around me can hear it too but when I groan I meet with arguments as if this were something that we could even begin to solve on paper or in dialog on the internet.

I groan because all around me, world wide, I see fear. Some, running with nothing but the clothes on their backs as their city burns behind them, fear pounding in their legs and screaming in their lungs. Others afraid to run through the pouring rain because an officer who sees his dark skin may in fear draw his weapon and assume he is running from the scene of a crime instead of home from the train station. Women and girls with shaking knees, taking abuse one more night, guttural screams held silent by a stronger fear of exposing the truth. Or fear that causes a father to buy a weapon to keep his family safe but that safety is fleeting, a cruel trick accidentally taking the life of his child who knew no fear but now knows no life. Fear like a monster patrolling our borders and slamming our doors in the faces of those who only come because the fear of staying behind is greater than the fear of a strange country with unwelcoming faces.

Eight generations back, my people came to this land because they wanted to live their faith in a land that was free and safe and kind. My people, who were once considered the left or third wing of the Protestant Reformation, who advocated freedom of conscience and insisted that no government had the right to decide the religion of its people, were weary of being hunted down like animals. Thousands chose death rather than change their faith or violently resist. Heavily taxed because of their faith and discriminated against, they found that owning land was next to impossible. The seller could legally change his mind at any time and take the land back if the buyer were a Mennonite in an early form of institutionalized prejudice. The early 1700s found a thousand of these emigrants a week fleeing Germany for London, where they hoped to find passage to America. Many were so destitute that they arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs, much less money for sea passage. By the fall of 1709, there were 13,000 refugees in London. The British government was overwhelmed and disgusted and began to turn them back. The  persecution of my people is described as bloody and severe.

300 years later I find similar scenes being reenacted. Unfortunately many of my people have forgotten. Once it was our ancestors, helplessly standing as refugees in the streets of London, surrounded by a staring, jeering crowd. All my people wanted was to start over in a new land. When they finally did get that chance, they dug in and worked hard. They were honest. Quiet. Sincere. They changed the face of this land for the better. They taught their children to work, to pray, to be kind and, most of all, to love their enemies and live a life of peace.

How did we get to this crippling state of fear, where descendants of these brave immigrants are voicing their approval of turning back other immigrants, running for their lives? An entire group of people, judged because of the faith or the nation they belong to. Fear takes the actions of a few and shouts vehemently that they are indeed the actions of the many, without giving the many a chance.

My people came here from Switzerland and Germany because they believed that no government should decide the religion of its people. Faith, they believed, is a personal choice.  If the choices of a few within a group make everyone from that group a terrorist, we would all be terrorists. History is ripe with examples of “Christians” who have committed acts of terror and yet we refuse to be labeled as terrorists – so why do we in turn do it with those of other faiths or races?

I would rather risk opening my door to a “possible” terrorist and die in an effort to live a life of love than live in fear behind a closed door while thousands suffer alone.

I understand if you are not at that place. I wasn’t always at this place myself. The thing that changed me was getting to know Muslims that so many are still afraid of. I’ve written much about these experiences and you can read my reflections on 9/11, experienced while living in a Muslim country here.

Today I grieve but I also remember. I honor those who eight generations back, crossed the ocean so I could have a voice in a land of freedom. I honor those who welcomed me when I was a stranger, who called me family even though I represented what they feared most. I honor those who risked becoming my friend even though their extremists say I am the enemy. I honor those who, like me, feel a stirring in their souls, a remembrance that they too were once a radical wing of a reformation. I grieve, but this grief is not the the last word.

 

 

The Far Reaches of Hospitality

booth

Pebble Booth at ABC Kids Expo 2016

We just returned from a week in Vegas at the ABC Kids Expo. We had a fantastic show and every day I counted it a privilege to share the store of Pebble with new stores and bloggers coming through our booth. Speaking to strangers doesn’t come easily to this shy gal from the Midwest. Yet, holding the stories of these women in my heart, knowing that when I share those stories it gives opportunity for more women to be given the dignity of a fair paid job, gives me courage.  It was also delightful to reconnect with current customers and sales reps who also attended. Pebble’s amazing growth in the US would not have happened without this wonderful team of folks we are so honored to work with. We even squeezed in a Facebook livestream with Jessica of  The Leaky Boob and you can view it here.

Amidst the whirlwind of the week we took some time to enjoy a side of Vegas not everyone knows about – the mountains and the desert. This country gal cannot survive long in a building with no windows and thousands of people. We took a morning before the show opened to visit Mount Charleston. As the scenery changed from desert and wild donkeys to birch and aspen, the air became quite cold and we wished we had worn more layers. Our hike up Cathedral Rock took several glorious hours and the view from the top was breathtaking!

View from the top.

View from the top.

As we sat to catch our breath and soak it all in, a stranger approached us, Thermos in hand, and offered us a cup of hot tea. For a moment I thought I must be in Nepal or somewhere in SE Asia. Where in the US are you offered tea by a complete stranger? As we sipped our hot tea, I was both humbled and challenged. I think that one thing that will make America great are these small acts of kindness extended intentionally to strangers.

I’ve lived in and traveled in other countries for nearly a decade of my life. Bangladesh. India. Nepal. Thailand. Cambodia. Indonesia. Malaysia. In these places I was a complete stranger yet I was the recipient of uncountable acts of kindness.

Over and over…

Again and again…

These countries are great because the people in them are willing to be hospitable and show kindness to complete strangers. It is a way of life that often requires of them more than a little sacrifice.

In the earliest writings of the scriptures, we are instructed to be kind to the strangers among us and to share with them. When did we stop thinking this was a good idea? Kindness has always been a much more powerful force than guns and bombs, walls or money, yet it seems so many want to surround their lives with these things out of fear.

Kindness turns strangers into friends. I would rather be surrounded by friends than alone behind walls that will never keep me safe.

The cliff thingy we climbed.

The cliff thingy we climbed.