Monday, April 25, 2011


I spend a lot of time these days trying to find peace...peace with personal choices, peace with other's choices, peace at the point of decision, peace as I reflect on the past. I have enough flux in my own life to sometimes feel peace is infinitely out of reach, and thus the lack of peace in the lives of those I love is sometimes beyond my ability to address. When my own plate is too full to take on the weight of another's, I try instead to send positive energy in their direction by investing good will, time and hope for change wherever I can. This approach led me to spend some time getting to know an organization in Seattle called Recovery Cafe over the past couple of months. Recovery Cafe is a "refuge for healing and transformation," existing to serve people dealing with homelessness, addiction and mental illness. The following piece was shared at an event celebrating the 1 year anniversary of their new space where strength and dignity are found in expertly prepared lattes and volunteer-led art and yoga classes (all of which complement recovery groups and other more traditional programs). It is one of the most beautiful things I've read in quite some time and I post it here as part of this chronicle of my journey to explore humanity and what it means to help and be helped.

Sonnet, with Pride

In 2003, during the Iraq War, a pride of lions escaped from the Baghdad Zoo during an American bombing raid.

Confused, injured, unexpectedly free, the lions roamed the streets searching for food and safety.

For just a moment, imagine yourself as an Iraqi living in Baghdad. You are running for cover as the bombers, like metal pterodactyls, roar overhead. You are running for cover as some of your fellow citzens, armed and angry, fire rifles, rocket launchers, and mortars into the sky. You are running for cover as people are dying all around you. It’s war, war, war. And imagine yourself as a lion that has never been on a hunt. That has never walked outside of a cage. That has been coddled and fed all its life. And now your world is exploding all around you. It’s war, war, war. And then you turn a corner and see a pride of tanks advancing on you.

It’s ok to laugh. It’s always ok to laugh at tragedy. If lions are capable of laughter, then I’m positive those Baghdad lions were laughing at their predicament. As they watched the city burn and collapse, I’m sure a lioness turned to a lion and said, “So do you still think you’re the King of the Jungle?”

I don’t know if the lions killed anybody as they roamed through the streets.

But I’d guess they were too afraid. I’m sure they could only see humans as zookeepers, not food.

In any case, the starving lions were eventually shot and killed by U.S. soliders on patrol.

It’s a sad and terrible story, yes, but that is war. And war is everywhere. And everywhere, there are prides of starving lions wandering the streets. There are rides of starving lions wandering inside your hearts.

You might also think that I’m using starving lions as a metaphor for homeless folks, but I’m not. Homeless folks have been used as metaphors far too often. I’m using those starving lions as a simple metaphor for hunger. All of our hunger.

Food-hunger. Love-hunger. Faith-hunger. Soul-Hunger.

Who among us has been not hungry? Who among us has not been vulnerable? Who among us has not been a starving lion? Who among us has not been a prey animal? Who among us has not been a predator?

They say God created humans in God’s image. But what if God also created lions in God’s image? What if God created hunger in God’s image? What if God is hunger? Tell me, how do you pray to hunger? How do you ask for hunger’s blessing? How will hunger teach you to forgive? How will hunger teach you how to love?

Look out the window. It’s all hunger and war. Hunger and war. Hunger and war. And the endless pride of lions. The endless pride of lions. Are you going to feed the lions? Are you going to feed the lions? Are you going to feed the lions? Are you going to feed the lions?

- Sherman Alexie, April 14th 2011, Recovery Café Capital Campaign Public Launch Event

Thursday, April 7, 2011

It comes around

On February 11 last year I came home around 10 at night and was grabbing a snack before heading up to bed. Suddenly Maureen came into the kitchen with wide eyes saying, "I think my water just broke." I burst into a fit of nervous giggles before rounding up my housemates and jumping into the car for the two block ride to Nairobi Women's Hospital. Thankfully, Maureen was staying with us for just this reason - a late night drive into Kawangware would have been too dangerous and taxis don't really operate in the area.

I remember the distinct honor I felt to be driving this young woman to the hospital and the great sense of responsibility as we prepared for an event I had no personal experience with. I'll never forget the nurses a few hours later asking me and my housemates how many children we had as we held hands and focused Maureen on breathing through the pain. "None," we said.

Yet there we were, witnesses to a beautiful birth full of strength, faith, friendship and humility. Out of a forceful crime came this perfect little child, born to a girl who became a woman right before our eyes.

On Christabell's first birthday while friends celebrated in Nairobi eating Ethiopian food and cake with the birthday girl, I said a prayer of thankfulness for this experience and continued friendship.

Look at our growing girl - in a dress I wore myself as a baby sent with love from her auntie far away.