Tuesday, April 21, 2009

10 years later

Yesterday, as most everyone knows, marked the 10th anniversary of the shootings at Columbine High School. I took the day off and spent it with three very special people. We ate breakfast at the school and were allowed to once again walk the halls of CHS. Exactly 10 years to the moment, I was in the room where I sat when I learned of the shooting, I got to see the office where I waited with 59 others for someone to come, and, save for the addition of paint, it all looked exactly as I remembered it. The memories haven't faded.

At the evening's memorial, I was reminded that no matter what happens in my life I have one job to do: live it for Christ, Colossians 2:6-7. I don't have a dramatic Columbine story. It's something I've always been able to face and talk about. I walked away from my high school experience with a firm conviction to cling to God. I praise Him for that. He sent me exactly what I needed in a moment in the midst of chaos: a friend and three words: "Pray with me." To this day I don't know what I would have done had it not been for Craig. And it doesn't matter. God knew what I needed.

Yesterday was the same. It was through my closest friend from CHS that I learned of the breakfast and God allowed me to share it with her as well, not to mention three of the most important friends I have made since high school. And that was what I needed. Cling to God - embrace the present - look forward to the future - accept your past.

My best friend, one of the three, worded her and Paul's role in yesterday very well (she married a man who graduated with me in 1999): "For Paul and I, as the respective significant others, it was good for us to finally be able to go into the mire with Carey and Clinton and to stand tall next to them. To be the constant, ever present reminder that this was indeed the past we were visiting and that it can be let go of now. I think with our presence there, it helped to highlight the fact that the past has no more power over us than what we allow it. And that the present and future are only as strong and bright as the good we extract from the bad in the past." (emphasis mine)

I am grateful to them for their presence and that reminder as well as the love they both showed me in both the somber and the silly moments. I say it often, but it must be said:
I am blessed. I love you both.

And to the man who provided a lot of that laughter, thank you for loving my best friend. It was an honor to share the day with you.

We have a responsibility to learn from what we experience. I am reminded anew of the fact that no person is insignificant and everyone influences someone, even if only for a moment. I am thankful for all the men and women in my life that have challenged and encouraged me. Without them I would be less. May we always give all that we are.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Raising Awareness

I have found something to be true: one must learn to laugh at oneself. This post is published in honor of that truth.

On Wednesday evening I learned that there was a shoe store hoping to raise awareness for the shoeless children in Africa by encouraging Americans to go barefoot on Thursday. I'm all about African children! BUT it was quite cold and rainy yesterday, so I wore flip-flops to make my statement. Off I went to the CU campus in Denver, my toes quite numb by the time I got to my first class. Admittedly I was feeling a little foolish. (I find that any time I do something to raise awareness all I do is spend the day being reminded myself of the cause I'm attempting to raise awareness for.)

The first person to ask me about my footwear choice was an acquaintance I have made in my C++ Programming class who just so happens to have been born and raised in Tanzania. In fact the first words out of his mouth were, "This is not right, Carey!" and I thought he was talking about our program that's due on Tuesday. I was wrong. So I had to explain to him why I was being so very un-wise.

"Carey, let me tell you something," he said. "Growing up I only wore shoes to church. And on Sunday I knew my grandmother would make me wear them and I would go and right after it's over I took them off! I don't like shoes. Now I have lived in America I wear shoes (without socks) but when I go home they laugh at me. I cannot walk barefoot on the ground."

This is where the light bulb came on: here was a man who lived the life of the children I am "supporting" and his reaction: "they don't want shoes!" (He also mentioned that East Africans are much more laid-back than West Africans. Something he felt he had to share when he heard I had been to Nigeria. Apparently I simply must see Tanzania! Something I could do with CU if I were into Paleo-Anthropology, which...I'm not...but I would like to see Tanzania just the same.)

Now I know the reasons we as Americans encourage shoe-wearing in the lives of children around the world, it helps with disease prevention, etc. But I found in my 10 hours of numb-toed living yesterday that the only awareness I rose was my own. I became fully aware (during my humbling chat with this friend, and in the hours that followed it), of how culturally unaware I truly am. It pricks my desire to know more about cultures around the world. How much more good could we do if we took the time to actually understand and appreciate the culture of those we desire to help? I am thankful for the missionaries around the world that do just that and for the people God so graciously puts in my life (in the most unexpected places), to teach me such simple, yet profound, truths.