A year ago today, Russ and I took part in The Rescue - the worldwide event Invisible Children created to bring awareness to children soldiers in n. Uganda. This is the post I wrote after the fact - once I had time to process everything that happened. To be honest, I'm still processing. Since then, we've fostered relationships with people across the world, been blessed by the generosity of our IC family, and been challenged by creating that sense of community where we live. A year ago, we were giants. May we never forget. ________________________________________________________________________
In those days, we finally chose to walk like giants & hold the world in arms grown strong with love & there may be many things we forget in the days to come, but this will not be one of them
- Brian Andreas
I came across this from a good friend of mine. The moment I read it something happened inside my heart. Something concrete & hopeful & dangerous. From that second – I promised myself whatever I did, I would do it remembering this story & those I have met along the way who hold the world in their arms of love. And I have forgotten a lot. I have failed to write my heart & my dreams down. Words & thoughts & hopes have gone with the wind, and I can only hope that unlike Hughes’ dream deferred, mine will return & not rot like a raisin in the sun.
However, there are moments where my dreams seem vibrant with color & so tactile I feel as though I can reach out & grab them. A couple weeks ago was one of those times.
I wish I could capture every magical moment of the rescue. I wish I could capture the beauty of pick up duck-duck goose games or midnight freeze tag or last minute taxi rides in the wee hours of the morning while walking the streets of Austin in search for George Lopez. I can only try & grasp with my weak vocabulary the severity of what joining together with thousands across the world did to my heart.
But I will try. Because I have to. Because I refuse to forget this moment.
I drove down to Austin on the 25th of April. I remember the weather. Sunny, almost brimming with anticipation — as if even the weather knew what was broiling in the minds of thousands of young people. We were many, but we had one hope. One goal. Abducting ourselves in solidarity with the child soldiers of n. Uganda & awaiting rescue from a mogul — be it politician or celebrity. We just needed a statement. Them standing in solidarity with us, who were standing in solidarity with the children. Because our rescue ultimately meant their eventual escape from a horrific life of terror. When I got to the Capitol, there were about twenty volunteers there, waiting & laughing & planning for the hundreds who would show. The abductees started the trek at 3 that afternoon in the blazing sun & showed up at the site after their mile and a half walk with flushed cheeks & wind whipped hair.
And they were smiling. All of them. A smile of hope.
Before long, the Capitol lawn was littered with sleeping bags, ice chests, guitars, footballs, pillows, scrap paper & new best friends. Within hours, boxes designated for letters to Senators were overflowing, proving wrong society’s perception of our “apathetic” generation. Apathetic we are not. Even in the face of rain and bitter disappointment
It started raining some time in the early morning hours. Walking from group to group, our voices growing hoarse and our hair growing damp, we shared inspirational stories to keep the momentum going for our impending rescue. We had a mogul. She had agreed to an offsite interview & we were going to see her making a statement for our movement at noon on Sunday. Excitement was building, people anxious for a shower & sleep worked out their jitters with dodgeball & red rover. Didn’t know the person next to you? No matter. They were your family simply because of the common bond. Instant friendship. Instant trust.
We got word around 11:45. Volunteers were called to a meeting at the VIP tent & walking towards the group I knew something was wrong. Long faces may not seem out of place after a night of no sleep – but this is a different crowd. No sleep? No problem. Double shot of espresso, good friends, good music, good laughs & good conversations pass the time & make you forget of exhaustion. Long faces don’t accompany the faces of my IC family very often. I walked up to the group timidly & began hearing bits of the conversation. It didn’t take me long to get the idea.
Our mogul wasn’t coming.
We weren’t rescued.
The promises we had given the camp the night before? The pleas to stay because it was gonna be worth it?
We looked at each other. Suddenly, the realization sank deep in our bones & we let it simmer in our souls for awhile.
This is why we were here.
The games were fun. The instant friendships were meaningful & would be a catalyst for life-long relationships & a taste for true community.
But we were not there for us. We were not there to play dodgeball or red rover or sing songs late at night by the light of a flashlight and the tune of the guitar.
We were there to stand in solidarity with the children who had hoped & hoped & hoped for rescue for over 23 years. We were there to understand what it was like to be promised something (like rescue) and be disappointed in the backfiring of the best laid plans. Because these kids? They’ve been promised peace five times. It’s no exaggeration when I say a whole generation has never known peace. I will say this again. In n. Uganda, a whole generation has never known peace. And we were losing heart with our mogul falling through? In Austin? No. We would not lose heart. We would stay. We would press on & keep the faith & not leave until we got someone.
It took another 24 hours.
On Monday, August 27, 2009, 48 hours after many had first stepped on the Capital lawn, we were rescued. Many were soaked – it had been raining off & on all evening & between dodging sprinklers, fighting sleep & staying strong, many were refusing to let up. A fire had been lit. And just like with any fire, it had onlookers. I don’t think I will ever forget the black suits watching us from inside the cushy offices – warm & dry – while we stood ground outside the Capitol steps dripping wet & taking turns in the dry air of Subway, Starbucks, or walking barefoot in the Capitol building for a moment’s reprieve from the rain. We truly were a force to be reckoned with, and they knew. We had been heard; we had been seen; and in the process, these children were not invisible anymore to those in Austin who could make a tangible plea in Congress on our behalf.
We were rescued on Monday, but other cities weren’t so lucky. I went home Monday night to my bed, others were still battling freezing rain & blistering sun & bitter disappointment. Russ didn’t come home for another four days.
And while those four days held about three other blog posts, know this: I learned something about my generation that week. My generation? We are a persistent bunch. We will not give up. We will not give in. And whether it be forcing trends on twitter to listen to us or demanding mogulus watchers to pay attention to this channel called invisible children or connecting people cross country to others whose hearts beat in the same way or sticking it out old school for the big O’ to come to the rescue, we will wait. Because there’s something else I noticed about our generation.
We believe in the absolute truth of hope. And in this hope lies the truth that impossibility doesn’t exist in our vocabulary. Our arms have been built with the persistence of love, and we will hold those hurting until others join the fight. We will walk together, knowing community exists when dreams are fostered, and to those around us we will seem as giants. And looking around, we will know this is true.