Child Brides and Monkey Pox

Last week a couple of good friends and I went to a Women of Vision exhibit at the Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC, and we had a great time.

Wait. It was great, but it was also consciousness-raising and thought-provoking. Although I have a copy of the book by the same name, seeing the enlarged photographs up close and personal was a sobering experience. Reading more about the stories behind the images and hearing the photographers discuss them have haunted me all week.

We saw a child with Monkey pox, a virus caused by eating contaminated meat. In this case, the child had eaten Gambian rat, the only choice in town so to speak. Starve or eat rat? That’s what psychologists call an avoidance/avoidance situation, one in which neither alternative is good.

 My friends and I had just dined at Chicago Dog across the street, a diner with lots of atmosphere and several delicious food choices. Our conflicts were of the approach/approach variety since all options were attractive.

We saw a frail-looking 5-year-old bride posing with her 25-year-old husband and another child bride howling with fear and as she rode with her family to her wedding. We also looked into the eyes of an 11-year-old who had attempted to commit suicide by catching herself on fire rather than succumb to a life of sexual and physical abuse.

 On the way to Charlotte we had talked about gender issues, including the incidence of cohabitation, the elaborate venues of today’s weddings in America, and the quest for romantic love.

We also saw girls in Mumbai standing in front of their cages. They were prostitutes with no education and few choices.

Here in the United States, education is a right and responsibly for all of its citizens…including the females.

After viewing the exhibit, I was a feeling a bit melancholy, not for myself but all of the injustice and unfairness in the world. How and why did I get so lucky?

Something else that niggled me was the oft-quoted reminder that no one gets to heaven without a belief in Christ. And yet I was 99.9 percent sure that none of the above people had heard of Him. Did the child in the Congo with Monkeypox go to hell? And what about his mother who sat weeping beside his bed day after day, week after week?

 I could not/will not believe that something so unfair can happen.

A couple of days later, I read a Face Book comment by one of my nephews that sent me to Mere Christianity, one of C.S. Lewis’s most profound and popular books. Although I had read it many times (especially some chapters), on this day I opened the book right to the following sentence:

But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangement about the other people are.

It’s not that Lewis knows the answer to all mysteries, but he’s certainly further along the path of understanding than I. For the moment, I feel better about the child brides, the Monkey pox victims, the starving children, and the prostitutes. God has not told us about His arrangements.

Have you ever had similar thoughts and feelings? How did you deal with them? 

How Do You Feel About Love These Days?

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How you feel about love these days? That’s my writing prompt for today, and it’s just what I needed to get my muse mojo going. After the sights and sounds of love that I experienced this week, the prompt is perfect. Every day for the past several days, I’ve been privileged to look into the faces of people dear to me and to hold my grandchildren close to my heart. I’m fascinated with Ethan’s blond hair and Olivia’s steadily increasing vocabulary. And the Maseda grands who live near Savannah? Each one is remarkable and well-loved.

It’s easy to love my grandchildren and their parents. In fact, I love all of my family, including the extended ones and the ones I don’t get to see often. My friends are dear to my heart too. I’ve studied several theories of friendship over the years, and I must admit that they all apply to my friendly relations. Some of us have been friends since we were preschoolers while others arrived more recently on the scene. Still, I love them all.

But what about those “other people,” the ones who are “different” from you and me? Aren’t we supposed to love them too? I’ve been thinking about that quite a bit lately too, largely because of Independence Day and the huge variety of people I’ve seen. Honestly, at the Myrtle Beach State Park this week, I’ve seen just about every shape, size, race, ethnicity, and race that there is. I’ve heard several different languages and sniffed numerous aromas emanating from the picnic tables and grills at the state park.

And how do I feel about it? I LOVE it! I love the diversity of people, customs, language, and traditions, and I love the USA. It’s a land choice above all other lands, and thankfully at some time in the past some of my ancestors made the decision to immigrate here. So did yours, unless you’re a Native American.

Back to love. Love is the most important emotion and force in the universe. It motivates us to action, soothes our wounds, binds us together, helps us grow, and sometimes breaks our hearts. Love is much more important than all the silver and gold in the world although everything, including love, goes a little more smoothly with money. I’d like a little silver and gold too. It’s just that for the essence of life, nothing can beat love.

There are several definitions of love, but the one I’m thinking of this morning has to do with what Christ said when delivering the second greatest commandment. In case you’re like me and need a little reminder of what that is and where to find it, look in Matthew 22:39: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” He didn’t say, “Try to love this person if you can.” He essentially commanded us to do it.

He didn’t say love the people of your tribe, family, race, social class, or political party ONLY.  It’s funny how things you learn as a child stick with you, and yesterday as I walked along the beach, I saw such a diversity of people that I kept hearing the refrain of “Red and yellow black and white, all are precious in His sight.” It’s hard to do sometimes. Those people talking with the funny accents as I waited for them to finish rinsing their feet and chairs and buckets weren’t feeling too much love from a sandy-coated, hot me.

What I’m getting at is that it’s easier to love people that you’re related or who are in your friendship circle. It’s harder to love those who speak a different language, worship a different god, or have a different complexion. At the same time, is it okay to pick and choose the commandments we follow?

Tell me what you think, my fellow Americans. I keep thinking of examples of love I’ve seen this week, enough for another blog post. Stay tuned. I’ll write that one tomorrow.

Favorite Fourths

I love everything about the Fourth and the values and principles that it represents. Yep, I even like the golf cart parades, and it makes my day when I see someone wearing a red, white, and blue bathing suit.

Since this is my personal blog, the one where I can post on topics ranging from single mothers and social issues to my family and life experiences, this afternoon I decided to jot down a few things about the Fourth. I love everything about the holiday and the values and principles that it represents. Yep, I even like the golf cart parades, and it makes my day when I see someone wearing a red, white, and blue bathing suit.

This Fourth was quiet compared to many of the others I’ve celebrated. It was just the two of us in Myrtle Beach on Independence Day, and here’s what we did. We began celebrating the night before with a cookout at Carol and Randy’s house in Windy Hill. Loved the huge strawberry shortcake! On the morning of the Fourth, we hit the beach early and stayed there for a couple of hours. We walked, talked, read, and people watched, and I hope to always spend at least a part of our nation’s birthday doing just that.

Later we ate lunch, shopped a little, ate burgers, splurged on ice cream at Cold Stone in Market Commons, and watched a sad fireworks display. We usually go to the 2nd Ave Pier with throngs of other people, but this year we opted to stay at the Commons to view the spectacular display we had seen last year. It didn’t happen; we saw a total of six fiery bursts. Live and learn, right? Next year we’ll be down by the ocean.

Reliving last week’s Fourth has conjured up memories of past celebrations, and in keeping with the Fourth, I’m going to share my top four.

At the top of the list is one in which my son and I went with a buddy from Loris and her daughter to the nation’s capital. Talk about a fireworks display! We joined what seemed like thousands of our fellow American on the mall and watched an awesome sight and  sound show. Something that makes this memory special is that it marks the evening when I realized that my son was growing up and away (from me). He was probably about 10 and VERY ACTIVE. Not content to stay with “us gals,” he climbed on statues and monuments to get a better look at the people and festivities. I was a nervous Nellie, afraid that some crazy person would kidnap him.

Another top memory goes back years ago. It took place in Myrtle Beach. My first husband and I were big into running in those days, and on the Fourth we got up before dawn and went down to the beach for a three-mile jog. My mother was visiting with us and stayed behind to watch the children. We had barely begun our jog when we saw them, a family of about six (maybe more—it was a quick glance) Vietnamese huddled together on the stairs of a beach access boardwalk. To me, they all looked scared and uncertain as they stared out at the ocean. Were they thinking of the land they had left? Were they wondering what this BIG DAY was all about? Were they anxious about what lay before them in the land of the free?

Another favorite memory is of a day when my daughter Carrie and I left the coast to spend the day in the midlands with various family members. My brother and his family were in town visiting my parents for a few days, and we wanted to share a burger with them. My other brother and his family joined us, and if I’m not mistaken, that was the last Independence Day we shared with my parents. Wish we’d taken some pictures.

After lunch and some “hanging out,” we took off for Sumter to visit my sister. She and her husband owned a restaurant at that time, and we (visiting brother and his family and Carrie and I) dined there that night. We have a funny looking picture to prove it. Dave’s wearing a Panama hat, and the rest of us are just standing there looking like dorks. After good-bye hugs, Carrie and I headed east again, but before going home, we stopped in Florence. The parents of a young man whom she was dating at the time had invited us to come by, and we did. They had a pool, and in and around it were a couple of dozen people mingling and talking and lying on floats. There was also lots of food, especially desserts, but Carrie and I restrained ourselves. Tired but happy, we made it back to the beach around midnight.

This post has gone on long enough! I’m just briefly mention last year’s celebration at the beach. Although I can’t remember what happened during the day, I’ll never forget watching the fireworks with my grandchildren at Market Commons in Myrtle Beach that night. In a word, awesome. Afterwards we walked the mile or so back home, and the entire way back, Brooke talked nonstop to Otis. He kiddingly told her that she needed to save her breath for walking, but she chattered on and on. Sweet girl.

I’m sure everyone has special memories of families and friends and flags and burgers. I just wanted to share a few of mine. You know, I think seeing that Vietnamese family is the one that tops the list. For me, it marked the first time I knew that change was happening at breakneck speed, that America was indeed a refuge for millions, and that cultural diversity was becoming more important. I hope the family has found opportunity here and that they love America as much as I do.

Living in the USA

Lately I’ve been thinking more about how fortunate I am to have been born in America. It’s never too far from my consciousness, but lately I’ve seen a couple of movies that have reinforced my gratitude.

My grandson Colton loves to gnaw on bananas. So do his sisters and brother. I saw a movie last week, Babies, in which one of the tots gnawed on bones that she picked up from the ground. For entertainment in her country (Namibia), Ponijao knocks rocks together while here in the USA, Colton explores cabinets full of fascinating items like pots, pans, and Windex. One night last week I watched as he danced with his sister Brooke, both of whom had Wii remotes strapped on their wrists. After the dancing, his mother changed his diaper and put him in a nice comfy bed in a temperature controlled house.  Ponijao was naked as a jaybird through much of the movie, and her mother cleaned her little bottom with a corn cob. Where she slept, I don’t know. I do know that it wasn’t in a “bedroom” in the American sense of the word.

My husband rented The Stoning of Soraya M. from Netflix, and we watched it one evening last week. I’m still having nightmares about it…all through the day. Her husband became interested in a 14-year-old girl but couldn’t marry the teenager without a divorce from Soraya. When she refused to grant him a divorce, her husband Ali hatched an evil plot to have her accused of adultery. Though the charge was completely untrue, Soraya was found guilty and was promptly stoned to death by the men in the village, including her husband, father, and two sons. The stoning was too painful to watch. Sure it was “just a movie,” but it was a movie based on a real story.  It happened, and four children were left motherless. I wonder what Ali is doing today and if his sons ever think of the beautiful, loving, and innocent mother they helped to kill.

The purpose of this post isn’t to berate other lifestyles. It’s to say that despite our myriad challenges and problems, America is still the best country in the world. It’s mind boggling to think that many of the world’s children never learn to read and write, much less eat a Happy Meal or play a computer game. It’s almost too much to absorb that some women can be stoned to death on trumped up charges while here in America, women (and men) often have several intimate partners, sometimes even AFTER they’re married. There is often a “punishment” involved, and at times divorce might ensue, but I don’t know of any stonings that have occurred.

The very fact that I’m free to see movies that enlighten me about different cultures of the world would be incomprehensible to many of the people I saw in these two movies last week.  In America, every child (even a girl) has the right to an education, and women can become doctors, lawyers, and golf course superintendents without fear of censure. They can own property, vote, choose whether or not to marry…and to whom. They can even file for divorce and be granted child support. I’m not advocating that more women do that; I’m just saying that being a woman in America has its pluses.

Enough said for tonight. I think I might Skype Colton and his family before he has his warm bath in preparation for bedtime. Hmmm. Wonder how little Ponijaro is faring in Namibia tonight. Bet she hasn’t watched adorable little Dora on television today.