On Saturday night, I was privileged to attend a beautiful women’s conference. It was focused on reaching out to serve others, especially the 60 plus million refugees in the world today. It sunk deep into my heart.
I am a woman who has been greatly blessed in her life. I have seen many amazing places in the world. I’ve always had people who loved me and whom I loved. I have never known intense poverty. I’ve always had shelter, food and clothing. I might have been poor by American standards, but not by other countries in the world. I have always had enough.
My family was never forced to flee for our religious beliefs. I’ve never had to watch someone I love be killed because they chose to believe in a different God. I’ve never had to walk hundreds of miles just to find a safe place to call home. I don’t know what it’s like to watch your world torn apart as you become an orphan at a young age and must flee the horrors of war.
AFP PHOTO / ATTILA KISBENEDEKATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP/Getty Images
(Photo courtesy of The International Business Times)
Yet I understand pain, sorrow, grief and tears. I understand the shock that comes from having to start over again and feeling overwhelmed. I have witnessed disaster, intense poverty, fear, hunger, deep grief, tragedy, violence and death. But I have also witnessed relief, compassion, unconditional love, kindness, charity, and so much more.
As I strike out to go forth in the world on another adventure, this time I plan on giving back. I see the tears of the children and adults and my heart aches for them. I have so much love in my heart to give, why can’t I give back to those who have so little?
And this is why I call this post “A Call to Arms”…it is time for all of us to give back a little more. My situation is unusual as I will be able to travel to another country and do it there, but you can find grief, pain, fear and more right in your own backyard. The best way to resolve some of your own problems is to get outside of yourself and serve others!
The lyrics and song below are my own call to arms. Read and listen…let it sink into your soul…then PLEASE go out and help in any way you can…even if it’s just an extra smile and hug. Together we can all bring more light and love into this dark world and just maybe, make a real difference in the lives of those who are hurting. Let’s give back hope together. “Can you hear the pleas of the refugees for safe harbors of the heart?”
Safe Harbors – Michael McLean
“There are refugees among us That are not from foreign shores; And the battles they are waging Are from very private wars. And there are no correspondents Documenting all their grief, But these refugees among us all Are yearning for relief.
There are refugees among us. They don’t carry flags or signs. They are standing right beside us In the market check out lines; And the war they’ve been fighting It will not be televised, But the story of their need for love Is written in their eyes.
This is a call to arms, To reach out and to hold The evacuees from the dark. This is a call to arms, To lead anguished souls To safe harbors of the heart.”
If you wish to find a place to start helping, the site below is a great place to start!
(A note to why I rewrote this. I felt that my words sounded more like a literary summary instead of what I was truly feeling, so I rewrote it.)
Dedicated to my father, Robert, who loves this story as much as I do and who is the most unselfish, loving, and kind a man I know.
I write this entry in dedication to one of my favorite musical/operas of all time: Les Miserables. I am but one of millions of fans (maybe even billions) around the world who have enjoyed the phenomenon that is “Les Mis”. If you have seen the story and heard the music, you will understand what I’m about to say.
There is a spiritual quality to this story that is hard to describe, but you can feel it. When I first heard the music more than 20 years ago, I fell in love almost instantly. It was almost as if I’d known the story and the music before, but not with my mortal ears.
Yet it wasn’t until recently why I understood that this story and the music struck my soul so powerfully. I realized it’s because it is a story of selflessness, humility, love and the ultimate sacrifice. There are many dramatic characters in the story, but it is Eponine and Jean Valjean that move me the most.
These characters have touched me throughout my life in personal and unforgettable ways. With Eponine, I understood all too well what it was like to feel the misery of unrequited love. Even now, my heart still aches at times for the woman who died in the arms of the man who was blind to her love. Only in the last bittersweet moments of her life could she reveal the depth of her feeling. But it was her love that, in many ways, saved Marius so he could live and marry Cosette. It was the greatest act of love she could offer.
But I think it is the story of Jean Valjean that stays with me the most. Here is a man who has had the cruelest of injustices placed upon him as he spends more than 20 years in jail for stealing a loaf of bread. As he finally gets to leave, he is met with disdain everywhere and just at the moment when he is about to give up, the compassion and kindness of a priest change everything convincing Jean Valjean to turn his life over to God.
To me, the most powerful and poignant moment of the show is when Jean Valjean sings “Bring Him Home” (See link and note below). It is the culmination of all that Jean Valjean has learned through living a selfless life. And maybe this is why it holds me mesmerized every time I watch it or listen to it. It’s a prayer that is sung with the most intense sincerity and humility someone can utter…to offer their life in exchange for another. It is the ultimate sacrifice and the ultimate gift of love. How appropriate that this post comes at Easter time reminding us of another who gave His all for us.
Maybe that is why the story of “Les Miserables” has stood the test of time and why it seems more important now than ever before. In this world today, where wars, terrorism, and hardened people spew out so much hatred, the unconditional love shown in this story is a hopeful reminder that kindness, mercy and humanity will ultimately win.
But I don’t believe anything I say will fully express what the music and story mean to me. Sometimes there just aren’t words to describe something that touches you to the core of your being. It’s so beautiful that it’s as if a small part of heaven reaches down and brushes across your soul. For a moment, the veil lifts…and you remember what heaven feels like.
(A note on this version of “Bring Him Home” which is linked below. Alfie Boe sang this with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir only days after the Sandy Hook tragedy where the lives of so many young innocent children were lost. It is said in rehearsal, he couldn’t even get through the song. Look at the tears in his eyes and you will see the emotion in them as he sings for the children who were lost that day.)
I took a walk today for the first time in weeks. What prompted this little jaunt you ask? (Ok, maybe you don’t really care, but I’m going to tell you anyway. ) The sun came out today after weeks of fog, smog, freezing cold and snowy storms. The first whisper of Spring drifted through the air. Instead of bundling up and feeling the cold every time I walked outside, I could feel a breath of warmth today.
Tendrils of spring through the frozen snow
After Christmas is over, I tend to become like a bear and hibernate until the temperature peeks above 50 degrees. I don’t like winter. As a child, I loved to play in the snow, but as an adult, I will take rain over snow any day. I appreciate the picturesque snow right up until Christmas, but on December 26th, I begin to yearn for spring. This winter has been harder than most. I remember on Saturday wishing I could just get in my car and drive south just to see some sunshine! The Februwearies have been hard at work on me this year.
But fortunately, Spring peeked it’s head out today. The snow was melting and green tendrils of wild grass were pushing up through the soggy, brown leaves. The pigeons were out in number flocking past me as I startled them, the swollen stream rushed happily by and the sound of children’s laughter and shouts surged through the air from a nearby hill. Families on bikes and joggers passed me as I ambled along the wet path.
It seemed almost as if the world was coming outside again to greet the return of nature’s version of hope. There are no flowers yet and most of the grass is brown and muddy, but the rays of the sun caressed my cheeks and I felt that unspoken joy that comes when you feel the burdens of a long trial begin to lift.
And that is my favorite part of Spring…the reminder that at the end of a long, dark trial, there is light. I’ve found that if I can just hold on long enough, and push through the gloomy days, the promised light returns. I lift my eyes to the skies and my soul is renewed.
Finding that light in our lives can often feel like a never-ending struggle, but for today, I held out my hand and nature took it and squeezed in return.
(Disclaimer: these are my feelings. I know they don’t pertain to every singleton out there.)
Valentine’s Day always brings out the worst in me. I have never, in my adult life, had a good Valentine’s Day. Romance was not in my ex’s vocabulary and though I initially tried to make it special with my own thoughtful gestures, they were tossed off with a careless “thanks.” Needless to say, between that and never having a boyfriend on this holiday, my enthusiasm has been slightly dampened for the day of “romance and love.”
For all of you “happily married” or “happily in a relationship” people, let me remind you what Valentine’s Day is like for the single woman over a “certain age.” (This may also be why some of your friends may not be jumping up and down when you tell them all about your romantic plans.)
If the day falls on a weekday, we see many women with beautiful bouquets of flowers, chocolate boxes or other gifts. The chatter over the water cooler will be all about who is planning what for their special “amour” on this romantic day. For the single woman, we usually smile, nod, and act interested when we know perfectly well that we are burning up with jealousy.
Then comes the dreaded question “What are your plans for Valentine’s Day?” And we must admit that our plans don’t contain a significant other. My answers are usually “Oh, my friends and are hanging out” or something similar. Or, on occasion, I flat out lie and make up this wonderful story of what I’m going to be doing to celebrate the detested holiday. I also know that I will likely end up wrapped in a blanket with my Netflix movie and chocolate. (By the way, did you know that they started selling chocolates on Valentine’s day because of the single women? Women in love really don’t need chocolate.)
If Valentine’s Day falls on a weekend, everywhere you go, you are bombarded with canoodling couples while your arms are empty. One can often feel like they should be posting a sign on their foreheads that reads “reject.”
But the most painful experience is dealing with our own thoughts. In our heads, we often face the reoccurring thought that there is something “wrong” with us. This isn’t necessarily true, but when most other people around you are married, in a relationship or dating, you can’t help but wonder what you are doing that causes you to remain single as the years pass. Unfortunately, that’s a complicated answer and different for everyone. But being single during this holiday can often feel like a cruel form of emotional torture.
So, as a single woman over a “certain age” let me remind the happily-ever-afters that on this holiday, don’t rapture over your significant other’s amazing plans or gifts to your single girlfriends. We love you and we’re excited for you, but it’s a bit like rubbing lemon juice in a cut. We’ll be excited with you on another day, but for this day (unless we ask), just leave us be or talk about anything else other than Valentine’s Day.
And for all those single women out there reading this, remember…fluffy pj’s, hot baths, chocolate and the cuddles of your pet friends can soften just about any heartache. (Almost.)
It came today…the sun. Just when I had lost faith And cold despair was taking hold… It edged over the frozen horizon Spreading its careful warmth. Slowly I lifted my head To the forgotten feeling of light And felt the healing… And the promise… Of better days to come.