By: Mae Lewis
“Tell me, how blessed are we to have tragedy so small it can fit on the tips of our tongues?”
Yesterday, I lost a computer file that I had already spent several hours on, and I had to start over. I wanted to cry. Then I saw a news report of real events unfolding in Israel…and I did cry. I’m ashamed that a bad day for me is having a headache, or having a work project go awry. I’m ashamed that my real world experiences have been so sheltered and so privileged that I have never known what it means to truly be hungry or thirsty. I’ve never been without a bed, or a roof over my head, or lived out in the cold. I’ve never had to sleep in my car out of necessity. I’ve never had to steal food to keep my children fed. I’ve never had to sell my body to survive. I have never seen bodies burning or people screaming in pain. I have never experienced something so horrific that my entire world is shattered in an instant.
I am reminded again of the privileges I have residing in Middle America, where everything comes as easily as a drive to the grocery store. As long as I have a good internet connection, I have the entire world at my fingertips.
This brought to my mind a poem by Rudy Francisco entitled “Complainers”- and I wish I could write with this kind of passion and elegance. I want to use my column space this month to share this masterpiece with you. (To REALLY be moved, watch Rudy perform this live on YouTube.)
COMPLAINERS – a poem by Rudy Francisco
“On May 26, 2003,
Aaron Ralston was hiking,
a boulder fell on his right hand,
he waited four days,
he then amputated
his own arm with a pocketknife.
On New Year’s Eve,
a woman was bungee jumping,
the cord broke,
she fell into a river
and had to swim back to land
in crocodile-infested waters
with a broken collarbone.
Claire Champlin was smashed in the face
by a five-pound watermelon
being propelled by a slingshot.
Mathew Brobst was hit by a javelin.
David Striegl was actually
punched in the mouth by a kangaroo.
The most amazing part of these stories
is when asked about the experience
they all smiled, shrugged and said
“I guess things could’ve been worse.”
So go ahead,
tell me you’re having a bad day.
Tell me about the traffic. Tell me about your boss.
Tell me about the job you’ve been trying to quit
for the past four years. Tell me the morning is just
a townhouse burning to the ground and
the snooze button is a fire extinguisher.
Tell me the alarm clock
stole the keys to your smile,
drove it into 7 a.m.
and the crash totaled your happiness.
Tell me! Tell me!
Tell me how blessed are we to have tragedy
so small it can fit on the tips of our tongues.
When Evan lost his legs he was speechless.
When my cousin was assaulted
she didn’t speak for 48 hours.
When my uncle was murdered,
we had to send out a search party
to find my father’s voice.
Most people have no idea
that tragedy and silence
often have the exact same address.
When your day is a museum of disappointments,
hanging from events that were outside of your control,
when you feel like your guardian angel put in his two-weeks’
notice two months ago and just decided not to tell you,
when it seems like God is just a babysitter that’s always on the phone,
when you get punched in the esophagus by a fistful of life.
Remember, every year
two million people die of dehydration.
So it doesn’t matter if
the glass is half full or half empty.
There’s water in the cup.
Drink it and stop complaining.
Muscle is created by lifting things
that are designed to weigh us down.
When your shoulders are heavy
stand up straight and call it exercise.
Life is a gym membership
with a really complicated cancellation policy.
you will survive,
things could be worse,
and we are never given
anything we can’t handle.
When the whole world crumbles,
you have to build a new one
out of all the pieces that are still here.
Remember, you are still here.
The human heart beats
approximately 4,000 times per hour
and each pulse, each throb,
each palpitation is a trophy,
engraved with the words
“You are still alive.”
You are still alive.
So act like it.”
― Rudy Francisco, Helium
By: Mae Lewis