Monday, July 6, 2009

Are We Giving Up, People? Are we giving up this work?

I am praying to the Mother Of Us All: Still my frenetic mind. Still my racing heart. Move my hands across this keyboard and let the words flow, from my hands to all hearts. I pray now, to effect an immediate and radical change for Good, and for good, always, and in all ways.

Tonight, on the 2nd of July, 2009, I find myself stunned.

Sasha and Mary have just told me that the CRP has less than 3,000 dollars to work with. Minus the % that goes to IHC for their fiscal sponsorship. . Period. Kaput.

Are We Giving Up, People? Are we giving up this work?

The CRP, still a baby, really, is dying! Dying of neglect? Dying of starvation? Dying because no one really cared about the "collateral damage" from the war in Iraq? Because not enough people cared? Because not enough people cared enough?

To me, the CRP IS a baby, conceived and birthed by my friend Sasha Crow, and then nurtured in its fragile infancy by both Sasha and my new friend, Mary Madsen, who came in answer to Sasha's plea for help in this. Sasha was in Seattle; Mary, in Oregon.

Somehow they made this Project work. Out of nothing, they made everything.

From nothing, they came to Jordan and helped people, one family after another, pouring a shining ribbon of light into the darkest corners of one of the more hopeless situations unfolding on our planet today.

They are still helping today. It is powerful and beautiful. Their dedication is tremendous.

In the face of enormous odds against them, they have tenaciously, passionately, and truly helped people who have been discarded and forgotten, if they were ever known at all.

I spent much time, in the past, midwifing people through their process of death. Is it possible that I am here today to help in this terrible thing, the death of another baby, the Collateral Repair Project? I am reeling.

There is no lack of money on this planet. There is plenty of money. There is, instead, a Lack of Heart.

I weep for us all, now, as I grapple with what to say, how to communicate without alienating those who could help the CRP the most, if so moved.

"If we were so moved." Such a big word, this "if."

I have been in Amman for a grand total of three weeks. I see what the CRP has brought here, and is still bringing, every day. Everywhere we visit, people's eyes light up, with gratefulness and real, genuine, heartfelt love. Every family we have visited is profoundly changed by the small help the CRP has been able to give them.

We cannot erase the horror. CRP makes the horror smaller, every time, every single time.

Today for example: We went downtown and met Um Marwa. We went to the sewing machine shop and the CRP bought her Micro-project, a home sewing machine, a pair of scissors, and some extra needles and bobbins. Her worried face transformed in front of my eyes. Light came in where there was none before, only exhaustion and fear. When Sasha told her that the money for her new sewing machine came from people in America, from people in Japan, from Mexico, from Germany, England and other countries, she simply and sincerely responded, straight out and without hesitation:

"First: God Bless all these people, because they do it first for God, and then to help people in order for them to live.. God bless them and I thank them. Really." Later, at her house, a broad, slow smile lit up her tired face. "I was lost without my sewing machine."

What did the CRP give, here? Not only the machine, the bobbins, the needles, the pair of sharp scissors. The CRP gave hope back to this woman whose life has been so terribly changed by the War. Um Marwa dares to hope again, today, all because you gave to the CRP. Imagine it. Daring to hope again. Beautiful. Priceless.

Then, we went to visit Iklass and Raed, who will be resettling to southern Oregon in the next few months. They and their 5 children and another on the way....

I am not sure that the mother of this group, Iklass, was able to take in the news that they will get to resettle. Finally, slowly, as if she could barely allow herself to believe, she began to understand-- no more waiting.... no more endless Limbo... no more Waiting for Godot, who, if you remember or do not know, never showed up.

Raed, her husband, did understand. His entire demeanor changed in the winking of an eye.

From the depths of long-standing hopelessness and deep, toxic shame at not being "able" to provide for his own family here, a candle was lit in his heart.

I saw it light up, tiny at first, then beaming from inside him, out, out, touching his frightened and disbelieving wife, touching his hollow-eyed children. All of them could then smile, too. And laughter emerged, and Life was renewed, as though spring had come after an endless winter.

Trying as hard as they could to speak in English and to make themselves understood , they humbly thanked the CRP: "Really. Really. Thank you very much. Very much!" This, along with: "Muslims do Good, for God. You {all of you who have given to the CRP}, by doing all you have done for us, have already deserved to go to Mecca {the fulfillment of their highest and most sincere prayers}."

Hear me, all of you good people all over the Earth! I beg you, be moved by these people.

They have every reason to Hate. Their country is ravaged. Their homes, gone. Their children, some born with terrible deformities from residues of Depleted Uranium, forced to journey to a foreign land where, even if they cannot legally work here, at least they are not being mortared. Do they hate? Not in front of me. Not one time since I have come here. Instead, they forgive. They forgive!!

They say "We must help each other. We must!." They are referring not to us, but to themselves!

They, who have nothing, offer us dinner. It is all beyond the pale. Over the top. Beyond the Fringe.

Some other brief examples of what I am trying to convey, here:

Shemeron, whose new prosthetic not only actually fits her leg, it is also PADDED at the 'stump' end, and weighs about 4 pounds. Her "old" prosthetic is a dinosaur. It weighs about 45 pounds. It did not fit her. It was a tyrannosaurus which caused repeated wounding, blistering, and bleeding, rubbing the end of her leg raw, making every step a torture and a reminder of What Is Gone.

She-- unimaginably, for me-- nearly refused the new prosthetic, putting it off for some time. Why? She felt she did not "deserve it."

"I am sorry," she said. "I am sorry for the burden which I have placed upon the American people who have donated the money for this, my new leg." She sat, in shame. I wanted to fall through the floor.

I am here now, remembering

On her way home from teaching in Baghdad last December, Shemeron stopped to buy bread in the marketplace. Boom! Her foot was gone. Dead people and blood and carnage were all around her. Somehow she made her way here. Somehow, she survived. And she feels ashamed-- ashamed of burdening you.

On my birthday, June 28th, we took a 13 year old boy downtown with his auntie, to buy him some summer clothes. He is not a healthy child. He had a fever, and is weak and sickly, on top of tremendous trauma and displacement. Still, they came, hand in hand. After picking out two pairs of pants, a pair of PJ's, some new underwear, a couple of shirts and tee-shirts, his aunt wanted to "be sure" that we would convey her thanks to those who gave to the CRP for her nephew:

"May God bless them. And may God paint a smile upon their faces and the faces of their children always. Thank you, thank you. I will remember you in every time of prayer, every day...." How beautiful. How eloquent. May God paint a smile....

Would we, as Americans, be able to forgive and to thank, if the tables were completely and utterly reversed and we were the Refugees and they the Givers? Would we be that big, inside? I can only pray it could be so. I pray it will be so. I pray it is so, now.

"Friends Share," says a little sign in my friend's house in California. Well, then:

By simply coming here, Sasha and Mary have transformed America from being "The Enemy" to being caring, compassionate, and generous friends. Sasha and Mary have shared and are still sharing all that they have, and all that they ARE. They have brought you to Amman, Jordan. They give in your names. Never once have I heard either of these two beautiful women take credit for any giving. They give, they say, "for you." For those who give to the CRP, they give all credit and all thanks, all the time, every time, unfailingly. Unflinchingly. They bring you here today, and every day in the life of the CRP.

How long a life? I cannot tell.

Five times a day, a Call to Prayer rings out, in Song, throughout this city. It reminds all of us to pray, Muslims and Christians and all the rest of us. Every day. Like a giant Clock marks the passing of time in other parts of the world, men cry out to pray to God. . Five times. Every day. Every night. It does not stop. There is no day off from this Call.

I Call to you, from the bottom of my heart, and in unison with all beating hearts upon this planet, to take another look into the eyes of the Iraqi people on the CRP website. These people are not terrorists. They are suffering civilians and humans, all. They could be you. Their situations are a living nightmare of the lowest degree. We have all been dreaming a violent Chaos into Reality. I beg us all now to wake up... wake up softly. Wake up truly. Wake up gently, too, as all of us need that now. Wake up, darling people all over the planet, and begin again: a new day, a day for Giving, not for getting. Let this baby of my two friends’ hearts Live!

We can help them "If we so choose." Pick up your pens and write the checks. Or go to your computer--a few clicks , a few minutes to spend sharing with friends.

And may God paint a smile upon your computers, credit cards, and bank accounts


Annie Tanner - CRP volunteer in Amman

The Collateral Repair Project

P.O. Box 8160

Medford, OR 97504