Every Time I Look up
Rabbit ears are plastered across the ceiling of my house. No corner is without. In overlapping, concentric circles – there must be thousands -it’s impossible to count them. And while I’ve never met the owner of the arm who reached to make each imprint, I do know this: I have been imprinted with an other-worldly purpose to impact the lives of as many children as there are ears above me now. I’m reminded daily, both literally and figuratively, of the boatloads of children one perfect word away.
Every time I look up.
As a teacher, artist, and writer, I’ve been privileged to befriend children in the darkness of disease, poverty, enslavement and incredible grief. Yet in those very spaces, I’ve experienced even a destitute, red dirt path behold the craziest kind of party when tens of tiny, shoeless feet sprinted after me. Not one trip did I give as much as I received, from children.
Today still, I live alongside children reeling from nightmares, loss, disappointment, and illness. Yet in these very spaces, I witness it daily – how unquestionable love and forgiveness flow most brilliantly when children are welcomed into a healthy community. Not one moment do I teach as much as I learn, from children.
Now when I take pause to hold just two of all stories, some separated by decades, continents, and economies, I’m struck by what’s the same. From stricken slums and diseased wells, to sterile hospital rooms and my own living space, the ‘thing behind the thing’ is unifying. The deepest affliction is actually universal. And do you know what that means?
So too is the healing.
Sometimes it takes an experience we’d never invite, to be equipped to receive the invitation we’ve always wanted. Project Lightwell didn’t start the way many might think. Certainly not with my two, outstretched arms hoping to meet a child’s need. Instead, it began when I could barely lift my arms. Like a seed that must first be buried and unseen before it can sprout, Project Lightwell started in the dark.
In the Fall of 2016, life as I knew it flipped from juggling jobs and intense activity, to struggling to feed our newborn or walk to the mailbox. I was told I might not make it. And I was told I was making it up. You’ll never mentally be the same. You and the baby must leave your house.
Days were unfair and testing was grueling. Tired Mom? Going crazy? Cancer? Cat disease? Hearing from multiple doctors in the wake of perplexity (I don’t even like cats much less go near them), I felt alone even when I was surrounded. I felt afraid because the dark was so dark.
Four years later
It was a night I won’t forget. As I was rocking my 2-year old at the time, she looked up.
“If I ever get lost, Mommy, will you go with me?”
In a moment, one of the most terrifying fears came in clearer. I felt it, too. Being lost is not the scariest discovery. It’s not knowing who we are, no matter where we are. It’s being lost, alone.
Could it be, I thought, rocking her still, we could not only provide a friend to hurt and to heal and to walk alongside children alone and afraid, but even better – provide a word of dignifying hope to outlast us all? What would it take, to boldly disrupt the dark that lingers so fiercely in the corners of our hearts, homes, neighborhoods, cities, nations, and world?
I prayed for a loophole.
Not until my own identity and worth were contested by life’s fragility, was the soil for Project Lightwell truly made ready. What didn’t bring comfort brought me to the markers that should have. What didn’t encourage me, brought me to the perfect words that will. And while both horrendous and humbling has been the tilling, oh but from it has grown this incredible gift I get to share. Now I know – Yes. There is a universal healing. Because in the deepest corner of each and every one of us, we desperately await the telling of what’s easiest to forget.
Who we are, in the light.