Recently I watched Beauty and the Beast.

Throughout the entire play I was singing along to all the songs. I’m sure those sitting around me were thankful for surround sound during the performance. Kill the Beast was only song I wasn’t familiar with.

In this scene the town villagers were riled up and full of fear after hearing rumors about the Beast. Hate quickly spread as people listened to stories about how terribly dangerous he was. Here is the dialogue leading up to the song.

Belle:  Show me the Beast!
Maurice: That’s him! That’s him!
Woman: Is it dangerous?
Belle: Oh, no. No, he’d never hurt anyone. I know he looks frightful, but he’s really very gentle and kind. He’s my friend.
Gaston: If I didn’t know better, I’d think you had feelings for this monster.
Belle: He’s no monster, Gaston.

So how did Belle know the Beast wasn’t a monster? She was his friend.

Yes, she was thrust into his daunting castle against her will, but she intentionally chose to enter into a friendship with The Beast. Belle opened herself to learning more about who he was, where he came from and in this process she was transformed. I resonate with the experience because I have a similar story. My life and heart were changed after meeting a very special man.

I once lived with an undocumented immigrant. He worked most days. And nights. And weekends. All to provide his children a better life. Sometimes I heard him on the phone with his kiddos in Mexico. It was humbling to hear the love in his voice carry over the phone line where his young son soaked up every word. One night he sang me the same song he sung to his children before coming to the US. His voice cracked and his eyes welled up with tears.

This man is a good man. He loves his family, he works hard, he has a beautiful heart. And the only way I know this is because I had the honor of spending time with him and becoming friends.

If there is an unknown person, a Beast, in your life, spend a little time with them. Laugh with them, share a meal, go for a walk, watch a movie, just sit and be together.

You might find out the Beast really isn’t a monster after all.

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How to make me cry

March 29, 2012

To make me cry all you need to do is tell me this true story. Every time I think about it my eyes well up with tears. Every time.

No More Deaths has one clear goal: prevent death. They provide water, food and medical attention to undocumented immigrants crossing the dangerous borderlands. One summer volunteers headed out into the desert in search of those who might need help. Little did they know when they laid their heads on their pillows at the end of the day, their lives would never be the same.

The band of humanitarian workers set out early in the morning before the brutal sun began searing through their skin. They carefully scanned the trails in search of travelers they could bring relief to.

Occasionally they shouted, “Agua! Comida! Medicina!” Their yells told those wandering in the desert they were there to help, not to capture or harm them. As the cooler morning temperatures drastically soared into the fatally hot midday their cries of “Water! Food! Medicine” continued. They had been walking for hours with no sight of any migrants.

Then they saw life. A group of immigrants were scurrying on the crooked trail towards them. The volunteers began wondering what they might need. Maybe water to pour into dry, dusty mouths. Maybe a snack to nourish tired bodies. Maybe medical attention to bandage bloody, blistered feet. They never expected what happened next.

Although the group of immigrants had nearly no food or water, they began offering it to the volunteers. After hearing “Agua! Comida! Medicina!” the migrants assumed someone in the group needed help. They did not imagine those things would be offered to them.

This is when I start crying.

Here were a few good people, willing to risk being caught and sent back across the border in order to help someone they didn’t even know. These sojourners risked sacrificing their last drops of water and bits of food to save someone else’s life. This selfless act might have resulted in a death sentence because without these two essentials in the desert you’re doomed.

Strong love, a love which prompted giving a stranger everything, was given that day. This story makes me want to love people better.

– No greater love has a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13 –

I’m such a hypocrite

February 22, 2012

Last year I became a vegetarian… again. For a couple years in high school I didn’t eat meat. Then I started craving beef jerky. I gave into the temptation and within a few months I was eating meat every week. But recently I re-committed myself to not eating meat anymore. I really, really, really like animals and don’t want to kill them.

BUT.

Here’s the hypocritical part. Anytime I see a spider I will absolutely, no questions asked, KILL IT.

I hate spiders. God, why did you create them? Seriously. They’re so gross.

My ideal man

January 23, 2012

A friend just asked me what I’m looking for in a guy. This quote is from one of my favorite books, Little Bee, and sums it up perfectly for me.

“I think my ideal man would speak many languages. He would speak Ibo and Yoruba and English and French and all of the others. He could speak with any person, even the soldiers, and if there was violence in their heart he could change it. He would not have to fight, do you see? Maybe he would not be very handsome, but he would be beautiful when he spoke. He would be very kind, even if you burned his food because you were laughing and talking with your girlfriends instead of watching the cooking. He would just say, ‘Ah, never mind’.”

Last night I got so wasted

January 1, 2012

*I wrote this after hearing similar stories from immigrant friends.

Tonight was like every other night. After spending several hours at the local bar, I stumbled up the stairs, pushed open the door and fell onto the cold, hard floor.

So wasted.

Tonight was like every other night. I could still hear the clinking of beer bottles while friends closed the end of another mundane day.  As more alcohol was poured, the laughter, conversations and music echoed louder.

So wasted.

Tonight was like every other night. My head throbbed. My feet were sore. My body ached. Night after night after night after night after night after night after night of this.

So wasted.

Tonight was like every other night. Lying there on the unforgiving floor of the one-bedroom apartment I shared with six guys, I remembered my last day in Colombia. The night before my journey to the US I promised my mom, “I’ll find a good job, make some money and I’ll come back soon.” She told me she loved me and would pray for me. I wanted to make her proud, but now… if she could only see me.

So wasted.

Tonight was like every other night. I curled up on the floor and looked down at my calloused hands. They worked hard today. Refilling drinks, clearing plates, wiping tables, washing dishes, refilling drinks, clearing plates, wiping tables, washing dishes, refilling drinks, clearing plates, wiping tables, washing dishes.

So wasted.

Tonight was like every other night. I looked down at my hands and remembered the dreams I had for them. When I was four I wanted them to be pilot hands. When I was sixteen I wanted them to be doctor hands. When I was 27 I wanted them to be hands holding my daughter.

These hands, they are mine, they are talented, they hunger for more, they search for knowledge, they want to be challenged, they soak up excitement, they crave the human touch, they beg to be used for more than refilling, clearing, wiping and washing. These hands are being wasted.

So wasted.

These hands can provide more than cheap labor for this country. Give them a chance to go to college so I can pursue my goals. Give them a chance to love fiercely. Give them a chance to live freely.

Give these hands a chance to experience life as yours do.

Just stop speaking Spanish

December 12, 2011

When I moved to Denver a few months ago I decided to start salsa dancing. Now I’m (a little) addicted and go dancing a lot. I love the community of new friends I’ve made.

Recently I was dancing with a guy I hadn’t seen for a few weeks. He took my hand, led me to the dance floor and I immediately felt something weird. His hand was different. But I didn’t say anything.

As we began dancing he confessed he was in a fight a few weeks ago and broke his hand. As a result he has a metal plate holding his bones together. I’m not a shy person so I asked what the fight was over. He said some guys were giving him and his friend a hard time. To satiate my curiosity I asked what they did.

“They told me to just stop speaking Spanish.”

What the hell. Seriously? We live in America, the “melting pot”, the country of immigrants, a place of “freedom” and my friend is being told to stop speaking Spanish.

He retorted, “No, I won’t.” Well obviously the guys weren’t happy with his answer. Cue punches being thrown which resulted in a broken hand. Thankfully the physical wound will heal, but the message of intolerance he heard will reverberate his entire life.

All this because someone wasn’t comfortable with my friend, an American citizen who speaks impeccable English, using his native language. I think what happened is a symptom of fear. I hope one day we can be a people who aren’t intimidated by others who look and sound different than us, but can appreciate the beauty they offer.

Pumpkin pie and cockroaches

November 23, 2011

Last night I ate a traditional Thanksgiving meal. You know… injera, doro wat, samosas, dal bhat, briyani and pumpkin pie at the Refugee’s First Thanksgiving feast. People, food, music and dancing from all over the world. Um, yes please.

The two refugees I sat between didn’t speak much English. The 20ish year old guy was mute and deaf and his mom knew about three English words.

Our conversations went like this:

Me: Pointing at something nearby and making a “Do you like this or not?” face.

Them: Nodding or shaking their head.

This went on for about two hours. We didn’t share any complete sentences. And it was beautiful.

Another gal I met lives in the same apartments as them. I was eating pumpkin pie and she began telling me about her home’s big problem.

Cockroaches. (Sidenote: Cockroaches and I don’t get along, but it seems like every time I’m around them God shows up in a big way. I kinda wish God would use another thing like baby kittens. Or cotton candy. Or flowers.)

She told me the entire complex is infested but, “They only come out at night when it’s dark.”

My heart dropped. I wanted to pay for an exterminator to spray their home. Then I wanted to do that for my two other new friends. Then I wanted to do it for the whole complex. But then I realized I couldn’t afford it and felt helpless.

After dinner I gave them a ride home. We got in the car and I turned on country music. Hey, they needed to hear the greatest music ever, right? Other than the radio and an occasional laugh at my many u-turns, the ride home was really quiet.

Thirty minutes later I pulled into their dark parking lot expecting to just drop them off. But nope. They pointed at me, then upstairs to their home, motioning for me to come in. I politely refused, letting them know I had to leave. They insisted. So I parked the car and walked up three flights of stairs to their two bedroom home. The mom pushed open the door and I followed closely behind her son and found myself in a dark, dark, dark room.

I heard the lady shuffling around the kitchen where she turned on a small lamp. My eyes slowly adjusted and that’s when I saw everyone.

Seven people. Living in a two-bedroom, cockroach-infested apartment. Greeting me with the biggest, genuinest (yes, that’s a word) smiles I’ve seen in a long time.

Like an honored guest I took a seat on the only piece of furniture in the room. In this new place I felt welcomed. Each family member told me their name and I awkwardly tried to repeat it. I’m pretty sure I messed up the pronunciations beyond recognition but they didn’t care.

What mattered was that I was there. Sitting. Not saying anything. Just being present in their home.

After exchanging phone numbers a few minutes later I headed out. The guy walked me out to my car and waved goodbye. I left feeling… a lot of things.

It was beautiful meeting new people so my heart was full. In the same minute my heart hurt knowing they sleep on the same floor where cockroaches crawl around leisurely during the night. It was humbling receiving their spirit of hospitality and friendship.

As I drove away my mom called me and asked how the dinner went. I lost it. Just started bawling. I had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the tears.

Here are wonderful people and they have so little. I have so much. I’m so selfish with my resources. I want to do more to help. But that’s just one family. How can I help more? Is anything I’m really doing helping? I want to maximize the time I have to make the biggest dent in the world of hurting and pain. Not knowing how… feeling helpless.

My mom reminded me to use the gifts I already have, particularly telling peoples’ stories, to advocate for change. My body stopped shaking from crying and I took a deep breath in. Okay, Sarah…. you can do this. Sharing stories might not seem like a lot, but keep doing it.

An hour later a beloved friend wrote on my Facebook wall and told me she missed reading my blog. A few hours later another friend told me the exact same thing. Okay that’s not a coincidence. I love meeting new people, hearing their stories and sharing them. I’m going to do it more. That’s one thing I can do to be the change I want to see in this world.

“The place God calls you to is the place where your deepest gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” – Frederick Buechner 

What’s your deepest gladness and how can you use it to meet the world’s deepest hunger?