once sat with a farmer in Israel who had all the trees in his orchard cut down by his neighbor —
and he turned to me and he said, “I refuse to be enemies with anyone.”
After replanting new trees with him — I sat there beside him, quieted, shaken by his words.
Being enemies is not an option.
Being human beings who belong to each other is the only option.
I’d once stood in Haiti —
in smothering humidity with a gray-haired grandfather up on a mountain ledge overlooking the suffocating poverty, and when he was asked why he didn’t leave here, why he didn’t move his family away to a more comfortable country, he turned to us, all of us, and he said words that cut me open and grafted me into something, and I have never forgotten them:
It felt like the whole planet had reverberated.
You don’t ever forget who your sister is — when you know Who your Father is.
When you are born again into the Kingdom of God, how can you ever again forget your kin?
Part of the world’s healing is doing whatever it takes to get your heart to stay close to the hurting.
I once sat in a shipping container in Iraq with 4 mamas —
and not one of those mothers were ever allowed to go to school — because they were girls.
Not one of them can read. Not one can write. Not one of them can even read or sign any letters of their name. They have been made invisible. Made invisible prey for poverty and trafficking and despair.
The baby in one of the Mama’s arms, the baby she was pregnant with when she was running away from ISIS, he flails and gasps to breathe, drowning in the mucus of pneumonia from sleeping in a tuck box, and the Mama asked the doctor —
“He has to live. My baby must live. We have already cried a flood. When will it end?”
I look her in the eye.
All this pain starts to end when the world lives what we actually are: We are sisters. We are a sisterhood.
We belong to each other.
We belong to the women who can’t read, we belong to the women who have been stripped of every hope, who are being sold in slave markets, whose daughters are coming back to them with ripped apart virginity.
War or poverty or ISIS doesn’t own these women — they belong to us. They belong to the sisterhood of the world.
When we live like we all belong to each other, we answer much of the longing in the world.
And I know exactly where I was when I saw the photo of little refugee boy, 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, his limp body drowned in the Mediterranean, his parents trying to escape the warring of ISIS by clinging to each other and a dinghy and a dream of freedom to be safe.
I’d stood there:
Aylan Kurdi could have been any one of our little boys. How many times have I tied up my boys’ shoes just like Aylan’s still were when his body was picked up on the beach?
Aylan Kurdi’s parents could have been us —
We could be the mother, the father, trying not to simply better our lives —
but escape war and save our lives.
I sat there staring at that picture of Aylan . . . of his weeping father, a refugee from Syria.
If we only watch humanitarian crisis and do nothing — does that make us sensationalists — when we’re called to be incarnationalists? We’re here to incarnate Christ.
I’m a slow learner, learning the art of global neighboring:
Do not turn away from those hurting — because it turns out you could have been the hurting.
See yourself in them — who could have been you.
I’d scrawled it across the chalkboard by the kitchen table:
The test of your humanity
is if your heart toward another,
is what you would like another’s heart to be toward you —
if you changed places with one another.
Sometimes when I put our own kids to bed, when we lay there praying for all our neighbors in the world, I can hear their heartbeats. The heartbeats of all the children in the world.
Sometimes you look into the eyes of the children in the news . . . and your heart beats like an echo of your Father’s heart:
There are no other people’s children — they are all our children.
Sometimes you can hear it in the news, at the corner coffee shop, the fears that rattle all of us, that try to chain our doors and lives shut:
What is the basis for opening our hearts and our doors to the hurting, the stranger, the refugee, the global neighbor?
Isn’t there a risk to letting the global neighbor in?
What if taking in the global neighbors, whose lives are endangered, we somehow are endangering our own lives, our own country?