Everywhere, Everywhere, Everywhere
There are some books, stories, even single poems we read that we hold on to for the memorable language, characters, nostalgia. Then there are pieces that hold on to us and uncover a side of living we would not—by the grace of God—know because of where we are born and raised. Or the piece of literature captivates us because it speaks of our very experience.
This poem by a young British Somali woman was written recently after [choose any, sadly] acts of terror were committed against those she loves in her hometown.
what they did yesterday afternoon
by Warsan Shire
they set my aunt’s house on fire
i cried the way women on tv do
folding at the middle
like a five pound note.
i called the boy who use to love me
tried to ‘okay’ my voice
i said hello
he said warsan, what’s wrong, what’s happened?
i’ve been praying,
and these are what my prayers look like:
i come from two countries
one is thirsty
the other is on fire
both need water.
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
This last stanza is the heartbeat for me. It calls out to any receptive ears; it is a universal cry for Living Water.
During a morning walk, I was dwelling on the “everywhere/everywhere/everywhere” place of compassion. Another tragedy happened in our own country while we slept. The news headline scrolled past my sleepy eyes. It took me halfway around a manmade lake to unblur my vision, clear my throat, and call up my words. They were coiled in my gut. I had to coax them to unwind.
I probably don’t have to repeat here what I was saying to the Lord. Many of us are having these, “why, oh why?” conversations with God, aren’t we?
To counter the sadness, I began my litany of things I am grateful for. A healthy body, food and gas money, my family and friends…While I meant everything I listed, the “everywhere” hovered, heavy.
I gave in to a moment of despondency, so sure that whatever I could pray or do to help would not amount to anything. This thirst, this fire that the poet describes is still raging, unquenched across the globe.
“What’s the use?” I whispered.
Jesus tapped me on the shoulder mid-walk. He wasn’t angry or given over to the earthly roars. He spoke matter of fact, confident:
“Every single person on this planet today has power to create new life out of death. Each of you is made specifically to heal by doing exactly what you love to do, nothing more, nothing less.”
I stopped walking. I began listening.
“Daughter, what do you love to do? Do it! It is how I designed you. It is a cup of Living Water. It is life.”
I love to hear and share peoples’ true stories. That much I knew.
God knew, too. “Yes. Find and free the words that will connect people to my love. Braid lines; rope them together; build bridges. ”
“Death and life are in the power of the tongue” (Prov. 18:21).
I finished my walk and went home. Sipping my coffee, I sent emails, made a flyer, and asked people to come. I offered a free Creative Writing Workshop in my neighborhood for anyone who wants to create and share, “true stories, well told.” I described it as something ‘we already have within us to react to this precarious world: create art.’ The day I posted it, several people from different parts of San Diego RSVPd! People want to tell their stories. They want to be heard.
God knew alright.
When we act from our core, following Jesus in spirit and truth, we aim for the complete expression of who we are, reflections of God’s glory. And it’s not just practical or a justice response. It’s beauty, God-inspired beauty. Kris Vallotton said his wife describes being “beautiful” as this: “be YOU till you’re full.”
Friends, what do you love to do until you’re full?
Can you create some space to do it as a way to offer life to yourself and those nearby?
Just in the last week, a friend browsed the Barefoot Contessa’s cookbook on her shelf, chose a few dishes to cook, messed up her new kitchen joyfully, and invited a room full of friends to come over and be filled.
I took my three kids to the samples aisle at the store to pick out personal hygiene items and granola bars together, so we could go home and assemble “care kits.” We’ll keep them in our minivan for stop lights cornered by hungry, homeless neighbors.
Our friends who are bound by addiction humbled themselves and let us help care for their children while they went to AA meetings. Addiction is a monster that I was raised to ignore. Choosing to be a community that walks, shoulder to shoulder, through hard things demonstrates how God’s love heals all of us.
I practiced dancing hula late at night with my musician friend—who agreed to use her passion for music—to collaborate. The next morning, we performed a prophetic hula over fellow Filipino American leaders from across the country. God inspired us to sing and dance over them—releasing more Holy Spirit—as they are commissioned to be ambassadors of God’s justice. This out of town conference required a balancing act of childcare while I was gone and my husband Chris worked, but we agreed that this is one, concrete step towards encouraging a population that breaks and makes my heart soar.
What stirs you with passion? With curiosity? With the heart of a Savior who saw and spoke to a Samaritan woman ? This woman represented a people utterly disqualified from being in the Messiah’s bloodline. Jesus knew if she accepted his Living Water, she would bring it back to everyone she knew.
What does it look like to focus our expectant eyes to see what Jesus sees and love who Jesus loves?
To an atlas of people and places
near and far
may we listen,
know the Father’s
may we offer ourselves,
~Ella deCastro Baron