Here is my reflection on celebrating and grieving the heroic stories of sisters around the world.
I sat across from a woman who spoke in a dialect I couldn’t understand. But I could recognize the timbre of her voice, and the tears that flowed down the etched lines on her skin. Her hands never stopped moving while she knitted and told her story of fleeing violence. I’ve heard her story before.
In Oaxaca, Mexico, she is a woman trying to find safety amongst the smugglers.
In a Greek refugee camp, she is a survivor paying hundreds for a vest that will not float in the sea.
In Ecuador, she is a girl raped by an uncle and punished for his actions.
In Botswana, she is a young mother fleeing an abusive husband and abandoned by her family.
In Nashville, she is a teen who takes shelter with a drug dealer while hiding from her stepfather.
In North Carolina, she is a woman who chooses to leave her pimp and is shot three times.
In a month where we celebrate women, it is my hope that we honor those who have told the same story in a hundred different languages: how they were used as commodities, abused, ignored, and silenced. While the stories of violence, sexual assault, poverty and trauma, are alarmingly similar, the individual experiences in each one matter. I believe one of the easiest but most powerful ways we can support each one is to bear witness.
Bearing witness means listening to a story again and again. It is seeing the woman in front of you, nodding along as you recognize parts, weeping together, and believing together this story can have a better ending for other women, and future generations
This is how we love one another as we tackle injustice, challenge marketplaces, and offer spaces of freedom. In bearing witness, we can learn to love the world one person and one story at a time.
Learning to love this way takes our whole lives.
Let's celebrate International Women's Day by responding to insidious injustice with unstoppable love and hope.
After my new friend from Ukraine set her knitting down, through an interpreter I asked, what more can any one person do?
She offered me a disarming smile and began to sing. Soon, 10 more refugee women joined along, heads leaning back, arms held up in defiance.
No matter the language spoken, everyone in the room knew this song and we raised our arms in solidarity.
This was love, the best we can do.
Raise your hand and sing along. We all know the words. We have heard it before.
Image from sister community, Argrow's House.