It was a rough week for Portland and me after two brave men were killed standing up to a bully on the MAX transit line just blocks from my home.
As has been the case too often of late, I had to scramble to find a way to keep my heart soft and my hopes high. It is so tempting to either rage or simply shut down against the daily dark news but it doesn’t really help, does it?
a photo and a quote.
The photo from the local paper was taken at the vigil held the day after the murders. Here was the mother of one of the slain heroes kneeling with a radiant smile beside a young Muslim girl wearing a hijab. The image spoke louder than words. It was a girl wearing a hijab that enflamed the White Supremacist who killed her son. I was inspired by that image. If she could choose love, certainly I could as well.
And then there was the too-early death of Brian Doyle, a wonderful, whimsical Portland writer.
It was because of his death that his words appeared in my inbox and I marveled once again at his ability to delight and inspire me in one fell swoop.
It was a single phrase.
It caught me as completely as had the photo of the radiant mother modeling love.
You bring your naked love and defiant courage and salty grace to bear as much as you can.—Brian Doyle
I deeply understand his words for I embraced those very qualities as I fought for the women and children in South Africa. Their needs were so palpable, there was such urgency to everything from a new roof for the weaving studio to help with Eulender’s school fees to a door for the nursery school. The women of Mapusha and their community captured all of me for fifteen years and it was an exhilarating, exhausting, expanding ride.
- I’ve struggled to find my voice,
- Get over the shyness of publishing a memoir,
- Let go of my African world
- And allow my beloved Mapusha women to move forward on their own.
This MAX tragedy so close rattled and awoke me in some essential way. Enough with solitude and futzing with words.
I am a voice standing to help find our way through and beyond the separations and divisions, the hatred and violence.
Mr. Roger’s mother advised him when scary news happened to look for the helpers. I am standing up, stepping forth as an earnest and bonafide helper. I want to join with others to explore how to move it forwards, what it looks like when defiant courage and salty grace lead the way.
I honor the brave men who stood up against hate last week and I thank them for inspiring me to stand myself with naked love for this world of ours and its people.
Of course you do your absolute best to find and hone and wield your divine gifts against the dark. You do your best to reach out tenderly to touch and elevate as many people as you can reach. You bring your naked love and defiant courage and salty grace to bear as much as you can, with all the attentiveness and humor you can muster; this is, after all, a miracle in which we live, and we ought to pay ferocious attention every moment, if possible.—Brian Doyle