Posts tagged #story

play in the pain

The other day, a student who graduated last year stopped by to see me. From the moment he entered the room, I knew something was different. His eyes darted around & he had difficulty standing [or sitting] still. "Hey. I just wanted to come say hi because I haven't seen you in forever."

It was good to see him. Although I never had him in class, he frequented my room in the mornings. Our conversations spanned a whole plethora of topics - college, life, religion, teaching, television, music, work, AP classes....I knew from other teachers he was a smart kid - sharp and witty.  Chatting with him as I prepared for each day I saw this first hand.

The other day was different. Although our conversation started off at surface level - I found out he decided to go to Baylor for college - he quickly jumped head first into deep waters.

The whole time he was in my room, he fought back tears - his chin quivering right before he swallowed his emotions and proceeded with his story. He jumped around a lot - unable to focus on one topic. The pain in his eyes though was evident.

Long story short: I wanted to turn away.

I wanted to hold up my hand, get him to stop talking, and push him out the door.

It hurt too much - listening to how his life spiraled out of control. I didn't want to know his family isn't talking to him anymore. I didn't want to know he turned away from the church because of judgment. I didn't want to know he turned towards the only community he knew.

I definitely didn't want to know how he thought his life meaningless and because of this, attempted to end it three times in the last few weeks.

But I did know. And something held me there - perhaps shock? Probably the Spirit. And as I stuck my finger in his face with tears in my eyes and choking out the words,  "don't you dare commit suicide. Don't you dare...."

He smiled at me and said, "Mrs. Ramirez. Don't cry. You'll make me feel bad. You should probably start singing 'You are my Sunshine' - that always makes me smile."

My heart broke.

I watched him leave after that - promising to check up on him via facebook and threatening him again with my watery eyes and shaky smile. "Your life isn't meaningless to me - remember this. And please, be careful. These people you're hanging with? They don't play."

He held up his hand, his lip curled up in a half-hearted attempt to grin. "Oh I know, Mrs. Ramirez. Trust me."

I turned around, shutting the door behind me and facing the students who are in my classroom now. I glanced around - realizing the similarity between them and the one who just left. Twelve months ago, you would have seen no difference. Now? You hear scathing remarks coming from the peanut gallery as he shares his nightmare.

I'm still reeling today. And I think, for the first time, I'm beginning to truly understand what Andrew Klavan meant when he said, "sometimes we just have to play in the pain."

Life is messy. People make mistakes.

But without the grittiness of the Cross, there would be no hope.

Without pain, there could be no redemption.

And if I believe there is hope for this student - which I do - then I have to take a moment and dwell in his pain.

This is the beauty of our faith. We all have stories - some more painful than others. If we aren't sharing this pain - if we aren't dwelling in the pain with others - than we aren't fully accepting the gospel. We aren't believing the power of the Cross.

Because [listen closely] - anyone can experience redemption. Anyone - despite the pain, despite the confusion -  can experience hope.

I'm holding on to this truth for my student - and for now, I'm holding on to his pain - hopefully one day, his story of redemption will be complete.

Posted on October 14, 2010 and filed under story.

cheaper than leather shoes

She glances at the man out of the corner of her eye and quickly wipes the stray tear inching down her cheek. Her body aches. With a resigned sigh, she crosses her legs and pulls her jacket closer to her skin. What’s underneath would hardly count for clothing, and she silently hopes she won’t be sent to the streets this evening. The man leaning against the wall taking in his surroundings catches her eye and smiles. Her heart sinks and she braces inwardly for him to come over. “How much for a massage from this one?” he asks, pointing at her with a foreign glint in his eye.

The shop owner glances behind him, following the man’s gaze. Looking the girl up and down, he shrugs. “Twenty. Good price. She’s new here…” catching the man’s eye he whispers just out of earshot, “pretty inexperienced.”

The man’s smile stretches in unnatural ways – barely meeting his eyes. She sees the exchange – his hands shaking as he hands the small wad of bills to the owner. Hiding her grimace, she straightens her back and steels herself against the pounding of her heart. Her friend sitting next to her grabs her hand and gives it a squeeze, tracing her palm with her pinky. Their secret message: hold on. rescue is coming. this nightmare will end. hold on.

Closing her eyes, she breathes deep his scent as he walks up to her. She studies his shoes for awhile. Leather. Expensive. A small scratch on the right foot – almost as if he ran into a twig while running. She refuses the realization he probably paid more for his shoes than he did for a short session with her. His hand wrap around her small arm and she winces at the strength. Her pulse becomes erratic and she lifts up a silent prayer, hoping someone is listening. Please let this be a dream. Please let the pain end.

Someone is listening, right?

The man with the scuffed leather shoes walks heavily into a side room and shoves her into the corner. She stumbles, struggling for footing before collapsing on the makeshift bed. His breathing grows ragged and the slow whoosh of a belt slaps against the straps as it comes undone. She focuses on his shoes, strewn carelessly across the room. The pain comes and she fights for breath under his weight, but she’s in another place. There’s mud on his shoes but something catches her eye. There. In the middle of mud – almost buried by grime – a small flower radiates with color.

Life in the middle of death. Beauty in the middle of devastation. Hope in the middle of despair.

A tiny tear slips unnoticed and she feels a sharp pain as the man slaps her – his ring digging into her cheek.

“Stop crying you whore. You want something to cry about? I’ll show you.”

Her heart threatens the protection of her ribcage – with a cry she begins to fight. Kicking. Screaming. Biting. As long as she’s breathing she will hold on to her humanity. Her innocence. She will not let go. The pain inches its way to every part of who she is but every space of life battles for survival. Her tiny fingers wrap themselves in his hair, pulling the strands from his scalp in small clusters. Her little feet beat rhythms against his legs, creating bruises he’ll have to explain away. For a split second, she thinks she may have won. His weight shifts and she watches as he gets up and turns away, rummaging through his pockets. Her eyes widen and her head starts shaking vehemently, pleading for mercy. He grabs her ankles and wrists, tying them with a rope. The fibers cut into her skin and all hope, all life, all beauty shrinks away. She is no match for his brute force, his laughter reveals this is just a game to him.

She loses strength and collapses against the sheets, pulling herself as far away from him as possible. She will smell his scent forever. She will wake from nightmares with his face inches from hers. She will never get away from his taste. She will never hide from his force.

She is his captive. She lays there. Lifeless. Forgotten. Invisible.

Finally, the man finishes, grunting with satisfaction. Broken again by a man she doesn’t know. she fights the rage, lacking the energy to act out on her impulses. She reacts the only way she knows how. She waits and hopes.

He puts on his leather shoes, the weight of his steps now matching his physical force. Walking over to where she still lay motionless, his eyebrows sink in confusion. She’s hidden her face against the pillow, her shoulders still quivering from the sobs she held back during the session. He places a timid hand on her arm and she turns to look him square in the eyes. It’s the first time she’s forced him to look at her – truly see her. She waits.

One second. He sees life and hopes and dreams. Two seconds. He sees despair and pain and hopelessness. Three seconds. He sees peace and acceptance and waiting. Four seconds. He sees beauty out of ashes and restoration out of destruction.

His destruction.

The man jumps back, his breath skipping a beat before turning and running out of the room. She follows him with her gaze, and only when his steps become distant does she allow herself the dignity of mourning.

Every 60 seconds, 2 children are trafficked into commercial sex exploitation. Over 100,000 US children are forced into pornography or prostitution each year. You can help. Check out She Dances or Love146 for more information on how you can make experiences like this history. Also: Check out Anne Jackson's blog as she exposes this darkness in Moldova and Russia. Her stories will haunt you.


So I say instead of picking up a book, pick up the world with your strong arms and read the hidden but seen stories and write the greatest story ever.- Ni'd

Our art of storytelling workshop was last night. I swear these kids capture more of my heart every time I meet with them.

I wish I could capture the look on their faces when we start talking about writing and stories and poetry and everything that bearing the burden of words entails. But I can't - however - I'm pretty sure Nijalon's quote above and DeVonte's video below will give you a bit of a peek into the heart of these incredible teenagers.

[vimeo 10405326]

Posted on March 23, 2010 and filed under story.

the power of fear

Fear will suffocate you.

I said this to Devonte and Nijalon the other day at our first meeting. Of course, I was speaking in terms of writing - fear of rejection, fear of going blank, fear of not being good enough. But it rolls deep, this fear.

We talked about how fear can paralyze you so completely, you don't ever achieve your dreams. The little whisper you hear telling you to make the jump or take a step is overrun by the blindingly familiar shout of fear. And as I spoke this, as I looked in their eyes and encouraged them to take the sheet of paper stating what was keeping them from their dreams as writers and storytellers and destroy it, I silently prayed the truth would sink into their hearts.

Because I know what it's like to buy into the lies.

It's been three months since I've pulled out my novel to write. At first, it was to allow myself some space. Writing about human trafficking is tough - and thanks to some incredible friends and an amazing husband - I knew when to back off and take a breath. Weeping at the keyboard usually doesn't equal emotional stability, you know?

But, it's been three months.

As I sat and listened to the dreams of these two high school kids, slowly mine began to resurface. Words began to dance around in my head and scenes began to form themselves.  There's no way I'm going to let 65,000 words go to waste.

So, I'm going to start writing again. Along with a few other things I've let fall to the wayside, I'm restructuring my priorities and editing my goals.

Might as well start now...

oh - and the dreams of these kids? inspiring. devonte wants to write novels using his background as the foundation for his stories. he also wants to develop a mentoring program for inner-city kids to get them to open up through writing. um...yes. beautiful.

Posted on March 18, 2010 and filed under story.

being joshua and caleb in a no name world

let me introduce you to some friends of mine. i met some of the most incredible teenagers tonight. and it's not because of their attendance or their grades or their achievements in sports. it's because of their faith.

in the fall, these kids were introduced to Kibera, Kenya through a video created by their teacher during her trip last summer. they fell in love with their peers thousands of miles away and mentioned the idea of actually answering the call and going to help.

an idea turned into action because of these kids' faith.

these kids truly are Joshuas and Calebs in a no-name world. in a world where people will most likely look at them like they're crazy, they are standing tall. in a world where most kids their age save money for a new car or prom tickets or the latest fashions, these kids are brainstorming ways to get to Africa - because they want to help others.

they know love conquers all, and they are taking a risk. a risk so many adults would hesitate to take.

but, no one tells your story better than you - so i'll let you see (and hear) for yourself.


Posted on March 8, 2010 and filed under africa, story.