Tuesday, February 10, 2009

I Run

7:00 am-
I am off and running.

The sun is beginning to climb high into the sky. The streets are crowded. Each person seems to go about their business with purpose. Everywhere I look I see throngs of people trying to make a few gourdes. They sell bananas and eggs and deep fried plantains. They negotiate price, they trade, they make their way.

A pregnant woman who looks to be expecting her child today balances a basket full of mangoes on her head as she hurries toward a friend motioning for her to come quickly. The air is thick with the diesel from the overburdened roads. A haze of smoke from burning trash hangs in front of me. Dust kicks into the air with each passing car. We all breathe it in, we all exhale it out. I run.

The foot finds very little even ground on which to land as garbage and rocks are scattered all around. On the corner goats hang upside down by their legs off of sputtering tap-taps as people push in trying to pay the driver for their ride. Just above our heads an enormous United Nations helicopter whirls, deafeningly loud, as soldiers gaze down upon the chaos of the city. The sound is overwhelming, it seems to be bouncing off of the cement houses and amplifying as it does.

Loaded automatic weapons are cocked and ready as white truck after white truck of Brazilian men in fatigues roll by. A small child walks alone with a five gallon bucket of water on her head, dust whirls around her feet as she walks, it appears she herself has not had a drink in days. Giant piles of reeking trash jut out into the roadway. Workers in yellow t-shirts scoop it up. Their work won't soon be complete. Two men argue and begin to push while frightened little ones peek from behind their mother's skirt.

Outside of the giant Embassy people shove and elbow jockeying for position to tell their stories to the guards, trying to get their chance to see an employee and ask for a visa to visit another land. Cars and trucks strategically speed up and slow down fighting to park in a place where they can see the most. A woman exits weeping, her request to go see her ill father has been denied.

Another half mile down the road, trucks jammed full with people and animals honk impatiently waiting for a chance to turn - an accident blocks the road. No police arrive; the angry and injured must fend for themselves today. A silver streak appears overhead as an American Airlines flight screams toward landing. People don't stop what they're doing to look up in the sky. They keep selling, pushing, moving, surviving.

In the distance, as far as the eye can see, more and more and more of the same. I run.

In my right ear, I have my mp3 player on as loud as it will go. Derek Webb reminds me This Too Shall Be Made Right. The combination of the music in my right ear and what I am taking in with my left ear and the dozens of situations I see around me cannot be easily reconciled or accepted. Does God see this too? A wave of something that feels like grief hits me. I am bombarded by a multitude of thoughts. I run.

I find myself feeling such admiration for the endurance of the people around me, for their ability to do so much with so little. I wonder how they do it. I find it unfair, even ugly. I feel angry. I feel weak. While I admire the strength I see, I somehow simultaneously feel pity. They probably don't want my pity. I wonder why it cannot be easier for them. Tears stream down my face and I run and run and run. And I try to make sense of it all.

Derek Webb - This Too Shall Be Made Right -

people love you the most for the things you hate
and hate you for loving the things that you cannot keep straight
people judge you on a curve
and tell you you’re getting what you deserve
this too shall be made right
children cannot learn when children cannot eat
stack them like lumber when children cannot sleep
children dream of wishing wells
whose waters quench all the fires of Hell
this too shall be made right
the earth and the sky and the sea are all holding their breath
wars and abuses have nature groaning with death
we say we’re just trying to stay alive
but it looks so much more like a way to die
this too shall be made right
there’s a time for peace and there is a time for war
a time to forgive and a time to settle the score
a time for babies to lose their lives
a time for hunger and genocide
this too shall be made right
I don’t know the suffering of people outside my front door
I join the oppressors of those who i choose to ignore
I’m trading comfort for human life
and that’s not just murder it’s suicide
this too shall be made right

The song in my right ear changes. I pick up the pace as I am nearing my home and when I pray a strange peace washes over me -
I am listening to these lyrics:
Mercy, weep over me Let Your tears wash me clean - Majesty, be merciful with me ... mercy mercy mercy.
And I pray for mercy as I run.