Tuesday, October 9, 2012


I remember very vividly the first time that I saw another person and realized they had a whole complicated existence outside of mine.  I was riding in the family mini-van and looking out the window as we drove when I saw woman on the corner of an intersection.  All she was doing was standing, probably waiting to cross the street - nothing incredibly interesting.  Suddenly an errant thought flashed to the front of my attention: "she has a mom."  And that was it - that realization began a spiral out; not only did she have a mom, but she must have a father and she might have brothers and sisters and she lived somewhere and maybe drove places and did she go to school or have a job or have a cat or a dog and and and and.....

And none of it had anything to do with me.  At all.

I was stunned and my expanded awareness was a bit frightening.  The world was so much BIGGER than it had been.  Or, to be more honest, I was suddenly SEEING the world more clearly than I had before. That woman, and all the other men and women of the world, had always been there but I had never really been aware of them before. To this day, when I see a man or woman standing by the street or getting into a car or walking into a store, I think "he/she has a mom."  And I am reminded of the narrow nature of my vision.

We all experience moments like this, moments of expanded awareness when we are overwhelmed by the realization of a broader reality than the one we have been previously inhabiting.  Sometimes it's the child like expansion that I went through - there are other people and they don't know me!  Other times it is an internal realization:

  • Oh no, ALL political ideology is flawed, even my own!
  • Surprise, my parents are funny and smart and I've been too wrapped up in myself to notice.
  • Well crap, I'm kind of racist!
  • Uh oh, I'm 100% responsible for this new baby and I have no idea what I'm doing.

And still other times, we become aware of darker external realities

  • When I buy these luxury electronics, I'm feeding an industry that relies on underpaid, almost-slave workers, and the environmental devastation of small African nations
  • If support this company, they use my money to fund organizations and groups I consider hateful and or discriminatory
  • When I judge prostitutes as whores complicit in sexual sin, I turn a blind eye to the slavery of sex trafficking and the human wreckage it leaves behind.

Awareness can be beautiful and it can also be devastating.  When we learn to see the world more clearly, we see both shadows and light.  And sometimes when we find ourselves fully aware of not only the joys but also the pains of this world, our desire is to retreat back into ignorance.  We didn't want to know, because the knowing made us responsible to ACT.  And Lord, action takes so much ENERGY.  Energy that we might not have.

When Cliff was first interviewed by police in November of 2010, I became suddenly AWARE of the legal system - of police and lawyers.  Then when he was arrested in December of 2010, I was uncomfortably AWARE of bail-bondsman and the price-tag of lawyers and justice.  And when Cliff was convicted I tumbled unwillingly into the once-hidden world of prison visitations and single-motherhood and appeals and parole and probation.

I'm the child sitting in the mini-van again, slammed with awareness of people outside of my existence.  Except now, now I'm a grown woman sitting in a prison visitation room and those people are now IN my existence. We share this recurring pain together when we visit our loved ones for two hours under the watch of guards with guns.  And I look at the men (young and old) wearing their prison white and the parents/wives/girlfriends/friends/children who are visiting them and I think "he/she has a mother" and I'm suddenly TOO aware of the pain that has brought us all to this point.  Drugs and sex and violence and alcoholism and theft and sin and and and

And I wish that I could just close my eyes and unsee, unknow, unhear this shadowy realm of life.  But I can't.  And now that I know, I know that somehow I'm responsible to it, to them, to all of us who are navigating this    alternate reality.  But Lord, what action to take? And where will that energy come from?  Energy that I'm not sure I have...

Have you ever sung that song, Open my eyes that I may see....
Are you sure?

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