six-word memoirs

A friend recently challenged me (along with everyone else on her email list) to tell my story in only six words. 

The project is inspired by the story, as legend has it, that Hemingway was once asked to compose a story in just six words. His response:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
— Stephanie Smith

Dang, right?!

Reading Hemingway's stirring response reminded me yet again of the unbelievable power of words.

While I may be slow to find my own words these days, I figured I could find six.

So I spent a while pondering different elements of my journey and ways I could boil who I am and where I've been and what I want down to only six words. Here is my collection of six-word memoirs:

  • Unraveled, only to be rewoven. Again. 
  • Worth it, but I didn’t know. 
  • Can't just one thing be easy?
  • If only I’d known then, I’d… 
  • My heart condition: best/worst metaphor.
  • Wanting to be Velveteen-rabbit loved.
  • Eat carbs. Drink bourbon. Laugh loudly. 
  • Heartsore and exhausted, inside and out.
  • Broken, but I’m okay… always okay. 
  • Not knowing is all I know.
  • Love and be loved: nothing less.
  • Learning to embrace uncertainty. And failing.
  • Home is more than a feeling. 
  • Though it's difficult: Relationship > being right. 
  • Why I can’t have nice things.
  • Always more question marks than periods.
  • Fall down. Get back up. Repeat.
  • Living loved feels impossible. Is it?
  • Give until empty; then give more.
  • I’m a roots and wings girl.
  • Africa will always have my heart.
  • Courage feels a lot like fear.
  • Life's hard. Hold hands, go together.
  • Autumn's reminder: there's beauty in brokenness.
  • No really... Are we there yet?

How about you? How would you write your story in only six words? I'd love to hear your six-word memoir(s).

justice & love

Justice is what love looks like in public.
— Cornel West

Love rights wrongs. 

Love doesn't just look on suffering and injustice and say, "That breaks my heart for you." That, at best, is sympathy. At worst, it's pity. 

No. Love chooses to insert itself into the suffering and injustice, and says, "I will sit right here in the darkness with you, and I will do all I can to fight for justice on your behalf." 

Isn't that what all of us want? What all of us need? Someone to sit in our shit with us... Someone to fight for us when we lack the ability to fight for ourselves... Someone to be the strength we lack, the hope we crave, the light in our darkness... 

For love that gets down and dirty with us is the only true kind of love there is. 

Anything less simply isn't love.

Love has feet on it. It goes the extra mile, and then one more and then one more and then one more. Love seeks to right wrongs and fights against the injustices of the world, even when its voice is the only weapon it has. Love speaks for those whose words were taken from them. Love shares its courage with the fearful; it provides comfort and refuge to the discarded and forgotten; it sits even in the messes it cannot fix, if only to provide solidarity and the loving support of a hand-hold.

Love whispers, "You aren't alone."

What I discovered on my trip to Thailand last month was an organization that embodies love.

My knowledge of The Exodus Road was merely surface-level before I traveled to Southeast Asia to see their work in action. And, to be blunt, I went into it with a lot of skepticism. I've sadly become pretty cynical and pessimistic when it comes to non-profits, having worked in that sector my entire life. So I went into the trip holding The Exodus Road under a microscope, practically looking for flaws and faults and reasons to poke holes in it. Awful, I know. 

But then I landed in Thailand.

And with everything I saw, heard, and experienced, my trust in the organization and its leadership only grew and strengthened.

The transparency, integrity, excellence, and strategic thought with which they operate is unrivaled.

Their work of searching for and rescuing victims of sex trafficking is the vital work of justice. It is love in action. And they do it unbelievably well. 

And with utmost humility. 

The Exodus Road doesn't purport to be the solution for human trafficking. But it fights to be the solution for the one trafficking victim right in front of them. And for the 700 they've already rescued.

No, they aren't going to find and free all 27 million slaves in the world right now, but they will rescue thousands upon thousands. And each one of them is worth it, because each of those numbers has a name. And a story. And a life worth fighting for. 

Will you join me in fighting for justice for children trapped in sex slavery?

The Exodus Road is currently trying to expand its team of investigators and social workers in India, and we can help make that happen through monthly or one-time financial support.

(I previously wrote about the incredible work happening in India. If you missed it please read it, because the story of their India Director's personal passion for this cause will blow your mind.) 

Together, you and I can step into suffering and darkness, and fight for justice on behalf of those who are unable to fight for themselves. Together, you and I can help fund investigations and rescue operations in India. Together, you and I can help right wrongs by joining The Exodus Road as they find and free minors trapped in sex slavery.

Together we can turn love's whisper into a shout:

"You aren't alone."

The Brother Who Shows Up

Sudir* was only a year old when his parents died. 

From then on, he and his siblings lived with his grandparents in their rural village in northern India. When a recruiter visited from Mumbai promising a job in the city, Sudir's oldest sister Nandi* accepted. She wanted to help provide for her family. 

Once she arrived in the city, Nandi discovered she'd been tricked. Her identity documents were confiscated and she was sold into sex slavery. 

She was twelve years old. 

When Sudir became a teenager, he learned what had happened to Nandi—the sister he had absolutely no memories of, because he'd been so young when she left. At 16 years old, he moved to Mumbai, determined to find her.

He searched brothel after brothel after brothel. 

Until eventually he found her. 

Her "owner" told him that her debt bondage was 16,000 Rupees (approximately $240) and he would not release her until the debt was paid in full. Sudir got a job at a gambling club, and saved every cent until he had enough. 

He returned to the brothel, paid the 16,000 Rupees his sister "owed," and bought her freedom.

Thrilled and grateful that she had a brother to find and free her, Nandi also felt heartbroken for the girls she left behind. They had been her family—her sisters—for years. All they'd had was each other, and now she had to leave them in slavery while she went free? 

"Where is their brother?" she asked him through her sobs. "Who will rescue them?"

Sudir knew he could never earn enough money to purchase each one's freedom, but he also knew he had to do something.

So he started doing investigative work. He went undercover to gather evidence and document illegal practices. After presenting the evidence to law enforcement, they raided the brothel, rescued the women, and prosecuted the traffickers. 

And so it began.

With a very deep sense of justice and an immensely personal connection to the issue of human trafficking, Sudir is now the India Country Director for The Exodus Road. To date, he and his team have worked with police to free over 330 girls and boys from sex slavery. The youngest was 7 years old.

Sudir's very first rescue was his sister. 

But he couldn't stop there.

Because he knows that each one is someone's sister. Someone's nephew. Someone's daughter. 

And he wants to be the brother who shows up to rescue them. 

Oh, and Nandi?

She's married now.

Together with her husband, she works alongside Sudir at The Exodus Road. She leads a team of social workers and manages the aftercare program, providing physical, medical, and emotional support for those who are rescued.

And that, friends, is what redemption looks like. 

:: :: ::

$35/month funds one full day of investigative work by Sudir and his team in India (called BRAVO Team). BRAVO needs 50 more monthly donors in order to hire additional covert operatives, investigators, and social workers to maximize their impact throughout India. 

Together, you and I can join Sudir and the rest of BRAVO Team as the brothers and sisters who show up to find and free the ones in desperate need of rescue and restoration. 

:: :: ::

Please take 5 minutes to watch this video.
It tells the collective story of our trip to Southeast Asia,
and will open your eyes to the complicated layers of human trafficking. 


*Names changed.

until

I still need to unpack from my Thailand trip.

Physically and metaphorically.

The unzipped, still-half-full suitcase on my closet floor reminds me that I still need to at least attempt to make sense of all that I saw and heard and learned and experienced. Though "make sense" isn't even accurate—not really. Because some things just cannot be made sense of.

But I need to try to take these thoughts, feelings, memories, questions... and clothe them in syllables—dress these intangibles with threads of letters so that I can hold them in my hands and trace them with my fingers in the way a blind woman perceives what she cannot see through the darkness.

I need to let myself fully feel.

To sit in the dark.

To grapple toward the light.

Until the words come...

Africa Herself

I'm ridiculously sentimental.

More than I wish I were, at times.

Places, songs, dates, smells, sounds... they all can instantly transport me back in time. Memories and meaning are attached to everything. Everywhere.

Which means I'm forever celebrating -iversaries. Friendiversary. Nashiversary. Monthiversary. Homeiversary. And yesterday? Yesterday was my Africaversary.

April 14, 1998 was the day I moved to South Africa.

A lifetime ago I lived there for 13 years.

I get that it's no longer really an -iversary since I don't live there anymore. But my heart hasn't gotten the memo. April 14th will always equal Africa. 18 years later (damn, I'm getting old), the sheer date on the calendar still escorts me right back...

I was 19 years old.

I landed in Johannesburg with two very-full suitcases, $200 in my pocket, and a heart drunk on a cocktail of faith, naïveté, foolishness, and passion. And what followed was a lifetime's worth of loving and laughing and leading on rich African soil that took root in my heart as deeply as I dug my roots into hers.

And somehow, in some strange, undeniably orchestrated way, Africa led me to Nashville.

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And so yesterday I celebrated my 18-year Africaversary, right here in Tennessee, with a bottle of 13-year old South African wine... which seemed so oddly fitting and perfect and surreal and peculiar, all at the same time.

With the very real understanding that everything sweet is bitter and everything bitter is sweet, I raised my glass.  

Because this wine?

This wine is bold and strong.

It's complicated and complex and multi-layered. It tells entire stories with its bountiful color and aroma and taste. It's both intoxicating and sobering... and completely other worldly.

Each sip is Africa herself.

Each sip is me.