Friday, December 30, 2011

Oh my goodness, this is a long post about the Sudanese plight and the excess in my life. Cheaper than therapy.

After weeks upon weeks of annoying everyone I know about a microwave for the second Sudanese family that just arrived, I had still turned up nothing.  We filled our Sienna 12 times with clothes, pots and pans, food, detergent, and every other generosity you can imagine.  But a microwave was not meant to be.  

I was really attempting to not buy it, not because they weren't worth it, but because I was *certain* that 2 minutes after I purchased one, a used one would show up through my connections. And then I would have spent $70 on a microwave, instead of that money going to food or other needs for the families.

The irony:  We moved into our new home, and realized there was no microwave.  

Okay:  There's the hippie-side of me that rarely microwaves.  We have a Zojirushi that dispenses boiling water on demand (I love you, Zojirushi, and so does my tea and Bailey's-cocoa habit).  I try to cook on the stove as much as possible.  But sometimes, you really need a microwave.  "Need" is so relative, so don't analyze that too closely.  But that's how it FEELS, okay?

Like the night I came down to the kitchen at midnight, pretty sure that if I didn't have nachos I would die.  A painful death.  I arranged my organic corn chips on a plate, covered them with organic mozzarella, and realized I had no microwave.  WHAT THE...?  

Then I sheepishly realized that microwaves are just a lazy/fast version of getting heat on food, so I put them on the stove-top in a pan and tried to melt the cheese. 

Not the best nachos.  But whatever.  

I was feeling this incredible sense of loss over my super-fast version of heat, when I had the luxury of (1) immediately accessing a craving when I felt it...(2) being able to buy organic forms of ingredients for my craving food...and (3) having back-up options.  I have so many heat resources in my kitchen, it's ridiculous. Zojirushi, double-oven, electric griddle, stove.  I'm sure I'm forgetting some, that's how copious they are.

I mentioned this to my dad, and he tells me he has an extra microwave, used once in a hotel, in a box in his basement.  He gave it to us when we visited at Christmas.

And this, everyone, cements my deepest maternal feelings towards the Lost Boy refugees.  That happens in our life more times than I can even count.  

They do not have this. 

Their parents were killed by machetes and guns when they were 5 and 6 years old.  Their dads don't have spare microwaves in the storage room of a 4-bedroom home.

We have generous spirits pouring so much into our lives.  Friendship and time, hand-me-down holiday dresses, the space-themed comforter that Jack is using right now.  I joked to Steve's mom that we must look needy, because people give us so much.  In truth,  I think that's part of being nestled into a really incredible support network.   We know amazing people, no joke.

Yes, the Sudanese refugees come here with little in the way of material possessions.  I could write books (series of books) on the intense needs of these incoming families.  It's this abyss of need that can swallow you whole once you start to care for them.  But it's more than that:

They don't have that safety net in their lives.  I can pretend that I'm this independently functioning adult, who works hard and lives frugally and really tries to make a good life for my kids.  But I was born to a scientist-father who had a great job at 3M, who always, always, always provided for me.  Emotionally, financially, everything.  

There is excess in nearly every single area of my life, especially when you think globally.

You know that axiom about if you have 2 coats, one is for the poor?  I have to actively fight in my life not to have 10 coats.  Maybe 20.  It's mind-blowing to me. 

Another side-story:

Andrew's blanket on his bed is shredded.  Only about 1/18th of the blanket's stitching is still holding the two halves together - one side fluffy, one side soft.  It still functioned for him and he never complained, so we just kept using the blanket.  Today, I finally decided it.was.time.  My baby deserves a non-shredded blanket.  I spent awhile in Penney's today, scoping out blankets.  Thinking about the long-term durability of it...the softness of the fabric (he's very tactile)....and for the cheapest price.  

Oh yes, and that it matches his room.  

First World dilemmas.

I came home with a thick brown polar fleece, 80% off at Penney's (land sakes alive the sales today!).  He loved it.  Problem solved.

That's the type of situation that keeps coming back to me.  Keeps me overwhelmed with gratitude, devoted to the refugee community, and wondering what makes some of us have so much and others so little.  

At the moment of deciding it's time for a blanket, I can then immerse myself into the process of getting one - the Perfect One - for my child.  But if I was in another country, mothering a starving baby with not enough clothes, I would still have that same intense maternal drive to care for my young.  And I don't know how to wrap my brain around not being able to do that.  

Back to microwaves:

One reason I love being married is because I get to fly my freak flag, and there's someone who's legally bound to still be with me.  Steve doesn't balk at my tears over refugees having 10 boxes of donated Easy Mac and no microwave...in part because he's awesome, but in part because he's used to me at this point. 

I told him I felt some philanthropic-pain over a microwave being a phone-call away for us, but an almost certainly unmet need for the Sudanese family (whose lifeline in acquiring things just moved to Richmond on them).  I asked him if we could buy another one and give this one to the Sudanese. 

And words cannot describe my affection when he nodded immediately (not even that pregnant pause) and said he'd drive there and drop it off today.  

See what I mean?  Excess.  In every area.  

The refugee work has been my thing.  Not because I hog it from him, but because he's either been working like crazy to make money for our family or because he's been buried in textbooks from before sunrise until his head hits the pillow.  He's been a part of it in many ways...like agreeing to donate all our things last year?  He signs off on all of that.  Loading the UHaul, attending birthday parties of the Lost Boys' children, letting me cry about refugees, and about 100 other things over the last few years. 

But so much has been done away from him, so in some ways, he's been asked to sacrifice to this entity to which he's not really connected. I respect him a lot for that.  But I also think you lose something in translation when you have a middle-man donating your sacrifices.  When I give to Goodwill?  I get about the same surge of life-warmth as putting my bottles in recycling.  I know it's for good cause, but it's barely a blip.

When I stand in the living room of the Sudanese families, bouncing babies and asking them what things are most worrying them right now, it sends shock-waves through my ENTIRE BEING. 

Steve came home from dropping off the microwave, and I met him at the door: "So did you feel the magic?  Meeting them, seeing them?  Did you get what I feel?"  

With a smile: "Maybe." 

And then he proceeded to tell me about a non-profit business plan he thought up on the hour-and-a-half drive home.  To set up a business where they don't need language...painting, cleaning homes, etc.  They want to work so badly!  And then have an American who is the coordinator for it, lining up all the business and handling the logistics, but then the Sudanese get all the money.  The coordinator would be a volunteer. 

I really like that guy.  A lot.

I really believe that THIS is what happens when you interact with the persons of need.  Your heart just wraps around their needs and you pull them into your own mind and consciousness.

I'd like to say I have a thesis statement for all this babble, but I do not.  And I could wrap this up with some conclusion that makes sense of all this, but that would be a lie.  It's not that simple.  This is just a peek into Sarahbeth's brain at 12:46 EST on a Thursday night.  

If you're still here, I commend you and your attention span.