Today I went to the home of a dear friend who just got back from an amazing trip to Rwanda, where an old friend of hers has taken a bunch of money and a lot of time and massive amounts of energy and put it to very, very good use: She has built a school. A school for girls. A place for them to learn and live, and a place in which to safely build their heart and character and in doing so, the future of their country.
I was among a bunch of wonderful women there today, listening and looking at the photos of the land, the children, the animals, the buildings, and the people involved in this enormous, admirable undertaking. As we sat, we asked questions. "Who is that woman there?" and "Where were you when you took that photo?". And what I heard so much of was "I didn't expect it to look that beautiful.". I heard "That woman is so pretty...look at the face of that baby...that hotel is so amazing...". And they were right. The people, the landscape, all of it was breathtaking. It was hard to believe we were looking at the same part of the world where incredible devastation took place not so very long ago.
I've been thinking of it all afternoon, and tonight I find myself contemplating how interesting it is - and how true - that looks can deceive. That beauty can so effectively belie devastation. That light can come from dark.
Though we haven't personally experienced it on the level Rwanda has, we have all seen it, generally speaking, right? I'm sure each and every friend at that lunch today has smiled through tears before. We know amazing adults who came from a not-so-amazing childhood. We have heard stories of (or lived to tell about) crushing infertility finally resulting in a beautiful baby, and a dream realized in the process.
So we shouldn't have been so surprised to see it happen on the other side of the world. Maybe beauty doesn't hide devastation as much as it is born from it. Sort of like when you've seen rock bottom, ain't nowhere to go but up, and once you're not at the bottom anymore, it all looks beautiful.
Sometimes beauty comes in the shape of a material lift, as in, My husband is an ass, I think I'll take his money and go buy the most expensive pair of shoes I can find because fuck him. Or, I've watched Sponge Bob every day for a year, let's go drink our lunch and buy some diamonds. Shoes and diamonds and Chardonnay for lunch are all beautiful things, and they can certainly be used to hide bad situations. (Although don't get me wrong, they can also be good in and of themselves.)
But isn't it human nature to "rise above"? Isn't it what we read about, see on television, hear in music? I know at least one whole song has been devoted to smiling even though your heart is breaking. Life hands you lemons - make lemonade. Suck it up. Pull yourself up by your boot straps and all that. Maybe it's been the American way, but now I feel like it's less American and more universal. A worldwide yank up on the collective boot strap. Maybe it's a woman's way. A global ovary tremble, if you will. We deal with some pretty heavy issues on a daily basis, multitask like octopuses, and still bring home the bacon (and/or fry it up in a pan).
I felt as I looked at the faces of the beautiful girls in the photos, that they had the perspective that only the hardest of times can bring. They are keenly aware of their country's sad history, and they know that right now, it's not as bad as it could be. It's better than it was. They realize the gifts they've been given - both internal and external - and are thankful. Their faces are shining with gratitude and joy.
Does yours? Does mine? Do my children's faces glow with the realization that they are filled with and surrounded by blessings, or do they think that because their friends have a Kindle Fire and real earrings that they are inferior and humiliated and it's ALL MY FAULT?
I'm pretty sure all of us have some funky shit in our lives. But we get up and get dressed and start the day. I know things are tough at times. Sometimes our job sucks, sometimes our partners make us crazy, sometimes what we hope and pray for never comes to pass. And sometimes we don't buy our kids an iPod Touch OR let them get their ears pierced.
And if those are the most devastating things ever to happen to my daughters, I will look up every night and thank my lucky stars.
The same lucky stars that shine over that school in Rwanda, where those girls will continue to grow beauty from devastation, and create life from death, and God-willing, will live long enough to see their daughters do the same. And, I suppose, worry about them just like we worry about ours.
Global ovary tremble, indeed.