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? 

Stopping and Looking

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I’m going to cut myself some slack this morning.

A couple of days ago I wrote about David Steindl-Rast’s interview on NPR in which he advised people to STOP, LOOK, and GO when it comes to their day-to-day experiences. I enjoyed the interview so much that I immediately purchased his book 99 Blessings for my Kindle.

  • STOP long enough to catch your breath and observe your surroundings.
  • LOOK at where you are in your life and at the sights surrounding you this very moment. If this moment is sad, painful, disappointing, or frustrating, there’s no need to despair because just like the present moment is a gift, so are jillions of others that you will have.
  • GO forward secure in the knowledge that more opportunities and precious moments are ahead.

I think the reason Steindl-Rast’s ideas reverberated with me so much is that sometimes I, like so many others, go through life at full blast. We rush about “getting and spending” and scarcely notice the new buds on a tree or hear the sweet birdsong right outside of our window. We get perturbed at traffic jams, slow drivers, and spilled milk when in actuality, these things don’t matter. What matters is our reaction to them. But that’s a topic for another day.

Today I just want to announce (strong word, huh?) that I’ve actually been practicing what Dr. Steindl-Rast is preaching. Even in the crazy, busy days of raising children and managing a home while working full-time outside of the home, I was able to see beauty around me, particularly when I looked skyward and thought of the Giver of “every good and perfect thing.”

I wish I’d written about more of those moments. I wish I hadn’t waited until I was in my mid-40’s to begin keeping a gratitude journal. It’s sad to think of all of those many moments when my children were younger that have now just slipped right over into oblivion.

But as Steindl-Rast said, there will be other moments of opportunity. Today is my day to STOP, LOOK, and GO. It’s yours too. And it’s so easy, Folks.

I have my iPhone with me just about all the time, and I’ve begun using it to its maximum potential as far as stopping and looking. Whether it’s a nature scene, a child’s face, a seashell, a deserted building, or a pier, I’m going to snap the picture. Then I’m going to go forward knowing that I’ve been mindful enough to capture a little slice of life.

Since January, I’ve begun posting a “pic of the day” on Facebook, and at the end of the year, I’m going to compile them into a Shutterfly book. I wish I’d done it earlier in my life, but alas, I didn’t. At least I’m on the right path now.

What is something that you do to stop, look, and go? Please share.

 

The Pressure’s On

The pressure’s on. As Valerie and I sat together waiting for the meeting to begin Sunday, she leaned toward me and said, “I enjoy looking at your “Pic of the Day.”

“Aw, you’re so sweet,” I told her. And she is sweet. Charming too. And funny and lovable.

She continued, “I’ve started taking some pictures too. And so has Elodie. I got a camera for her, and now we both look for pictures to take every day.”

Elodie is in elementary school and is 6 or 7 years old.  I was stunned and surprised and pleased all at the same time. It’s one thing for an adult to begin noticing favorite sights to snap pictures of, but it’s quite another for a young child to follow suit.  I found the thought of mother and daughter looking for scenes to snap heartwarming, especially since they had been influenced by me.

Encouraged by Valerie’s news, I prattled on. “It’s amazing how much more attention I pay to my environment when I know I’m going to post something each night. Even if no one pays attention to the photographs, they mean something to me.”

“Oh, we love them,” Valerie assured me.

By the way, I can’t do justice to her wonderful accent. Having been raised on an island near France, Valerie’s speech is enviable and makes everything she says twice as delightful. We all want to talk the way Valerie does, melodic and pleasing.

The music started, and our meeting began. Three days later I’m remembering our conversation and thinking of how marvelous it is that we have the technology to take pictures instantly. As long as our smart phones are charged, we can snap as many photographs as we want to and instantly delete the ones that are “not-so-hot.” Some have too much light, others are taken from a funny angle, and still others don’t do the subject justice.

But I think what I like best is that pictures, just like words, can be used to chronicle the events of our lives. I’ve kept a journal for the past 20 years, and while I plan to continue that, it’s even better to have an additional means of recording history, mine and yours and theirs. Plus, taking pictures forces me to be more mindful. Without a handy camera and a desire to look more closely at this wonderful world, I would have missed many breathtaking sights. Well, okay, all aren’t breathtaking, but all of my pictures tell some sort of story.

I’ve yet to snap one single picture today, but I’ll remedy that when I go on a walk soon. I hope Valerie and Elodie found something worth capturing and that my “Pic of the Day” will please them.
 

Pic of the Day

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A couple of people have asked me why I post a “Pic of the Day” on Facebook every evening. Although they’ve been too kind to add, “especially since most of them aren’t really that spectacular,” I feel like they’re wondering about it. The reason for the daily photograph is simple. I’m more mindful of life when I know that I’ll be recording the one photograph that best demonstrates something memorable about that day.

About 15 years ago, a friend and I started gratitude journals. That’s right. We jumped on the gratitude bandwagon with thousands of other women after reading Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance. Soon we found ourselves looking forward to the time of day when we sat down and recorded at least five things about that day for which we were thankful.

Back in the day June and I wrote our lists in the old-fashioned pen and paper method, but lately I’ve been recording the gratitude list in an app on my iPad. The app is especially fun to use because it gives the writer the opportunity to add up to three photographs a day. Knowing that I’m going to add some pictures to accompany the day’s experiences has made me even more mindful of the goings-on around me.

There is beauty all around, even in the mundane, and it’s chancy to leave it up to my mind to remember it all.  For instance, one afternoon after jury duty last week, I walked over to the big second story window to check out the weather before leaving the courthouse. The picture above is the one I snapped. It was still raining. The slick, wet sidewalks, the hunkered over forms of my fellow jurors as they hustled to their cars, and the steady drizzle from the gray sky all let me know that I needed my umbrella. I pulled out my iPhone and took the picture.

The shot didn’t make it my Pic of the Day, but I did post it in my electronic gratitude journal that night. There are days that I’m too tired to record words at night, so I’ll post some pictures as memory prompts for the next day. Those pictures work amazingly well in helping me to remember events, experiences, people, and thoughts of my days. I’m in agreement with Anais Nin who said (paraphrase) that keeping a journal helps one to live life twice.

Do you know what you were doing on Tuesday, January 14 2014? I do, and it’s because of my journal and its pictures. Have you already begun taking pictures of the scenes around you? Would you consider sharing them with us?