Monday, January 16, 2012

Little Bee

"A billion people are hungry, hundreds of conflicts and wars are ongoing, tens of millions suffer from eradicable diseases, there is always at least one genocide underway somewhere on the planet, more people still live under dictatorships or oppressive regimes than live in free societies, and arms dealers still make more money than farmers. Of course individuals can make a difference, but the fact is that evil has had the whip hand in this world ever since Cain. That doesn't mean we should stop trying to be good, but we shouldn't kid ourselves, either. Evil is not going to be vanquished. Our job is to resist it, and to plant the seeds of further resistance so that goodness never entirely vanishes from the universe. There are degrees of resistance. It starts when you give a dollar to a homeless person and it escalates to the point where people give their lives, as Gandhi did, or Martin Luther King Jr. One person can make a difference by traveling as far along that continuum as they feel able." --Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee, in the author interview in the back of the Simon & Schuster trade paperback edition published in February of 2010

I just finished reading Little Bee, a book about a teenage refugee from Nigeria who is released, without any papers, after two years in a British detention center and has to try and make her way in the Western world. It is both brutal and sweet, devastating and hopeful, unbelievable and unforgettable. It is one of those books that I just can't stop thinking about. Can't stop remembering. Can't stop feeling. 

At first I was tempted to run off to Nigeria and see what I could do to help the women and children there who are being killed to fuel our cars. But I knew in my heart that this was impossible and irresponsible to my own family. So I looked around to see what I could do. I could send money, of course, to a charity that works to solve these kinds of issues in Nigeria and other parts of Africa, but that seemed too easy - "just" give some money. 

I could get rid of my car and walk everywhere. Or ride my bike. I pictured myself with a bike basket full of groceries pedaling home from our local Trader Joe's. My husband disavowed me of that notion immediately, "I don't want you careening down that busy street with a bike full of groceries. Talk about a recipe for disaster!"

I could sending loving energy to the women and children being tortured and killed. Think about them, remember them, keep them in my heart. Again, this seemed to come up somehow short. How hard is it for me in my safe home with plenty of food and plenty of freedom to send them light and love? 

Then I picked the book up again and read the author interview in the back of the book and I found this passage. I felt like it was telling me what to do. Get started. Do what you can. Make a difference by traveling as far along that continuum as you feel able. 

In September of last year I made a commitment to give $1 whenever I see a homeless person. After reading this book I made the commitment to walk whenever and wherever I can to cut down on my dependence on the oil for which women and children all over the world are being killed. Twice this week I have gone to get in my car and stopped myself, taking off on foot instead for the store and the bank. 

I will continue to look for opportunities to make a difference when and where and how I can. For now what I can do seems small, but someday I may feel able to travel further along the continuum of resistance and hope. Maybe even as far as Nigeria.

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