Mankind has perpetuated evil over and over and over again. When will we stop? When will it end?
Genocide definition: “a form of one-sided mass killing in which a state or other authority intends to destroy a group, as that group and membership in it are defined by the perpetrator.”
– Frank Chalk and Kurt Jonassohn, The History and Sociology of Genocide, 1990
The latest genocide to occur in Rwanda began on April 6, 1994 and lasted for 100 days. During that time, over 1,000,000 people were killed simply because they were identified as Tutsi. No one was exempt. The killing was brutal and slow. Most of the killing was done house to house by neighbors with farm implements: the favorite tool was a machete.
At the memorial site that I visited, there are over 250,000 buried here in mass graves. And a grave is left open because more will be received.
It is peaceful and silent. And very, very sad.
The sadness overcomes me when I see thousands of photographs of loved ones gone. Cases of bones and skulls; and then another with smaller skulls and bones that can only belong to children. Clothes that had been worn by those murdered. Graphic pictures of death, dying and torture. It all serves to overwhelm the observer. But these images also remind us that we must never forget.
There is a memorial in each district. In some cases it is the finest building to be seen. But the dead here are loved and not forgotten and are deeply missed. Any of us who have ever lost someone we cherished miss them deeply. Most of those we remember were not brutally removed from our lives.
When you add brutality to death, one must tread very carefully in saying, “I understand.” I do not know their grief. But I know it is theirs alone and so we can stand with them in respect and silence to acknowledge their pain and loss.
In Rwanda, 100,000 people sit in prison waiting to be tried for their crimes during the genocide. These are not high security prisons. They are made out of brick and many times I saw prisoners, dressed all in pink, walking along the road, working, waiting.
In many cases they subsist on very little food and are sick. Their families visit them and bring them food. These prisoners are neighbors, friends, people who murdered people they knew and shared a meal and a life together prior to April 1994. And the Rwandese insist on justice.
Within the culture there is a community dispute resolution system called Gacaca (ga-cha-cha). It was originally established for settling community disputes and transgressions. It has been modernized to be used for the trials and reconciliation of the people of Rwanda.
In a gacaca, the alleged perpetrators are brought before the community and members of the community testify to what they witnessed. One of the purposes of the gacaca is for the relatives of the dead to forgive the murderer. The Rwandan people believe that forgiveness is key to rebuilding this nation.
In the last few years President Kagame has issued new identity cards which no longer specify Hutu, Tutsi or Tua. They are all Rwandese.
If anyone teaches differently, speaks differently or acts in the old system they are immediately prosecuted (in theory). The message though is clear and strong: we are all Rwandese.
A young man I met was 18 at the time of the war (or genocide). He left for Canada to get away from the pain and memories. And he tried to forget what happened.
And then two years ago he realized he had stopped living and needed to forgive those he knew that murdered his best friend in front of him. And through his efforts to forgive (which is an ongoing process), he is healing and he knows he survived for a reason.
Can you imagine forgiving someone you watched brutally murder your loved one, or possibly your entire family??? I know for sure it’s possible to do this. I have seen it. But it takes faith in God, true love for another and an ability to ask the question, “How do I go on?” versus “Why should I go on?”
We must stop genocide which continues TODAY in Burundi, the Sudan’s western Darfur region and other places in the world, in some cases unchecked. Wherever this evil has been unleashed, it destroys at a terrifying level.
And we must become educated and aware and insist that it is not acceptable.
The Tsunami in January of this year was a brutal destruction of human life. It was covered by the press at an enormously high level and the world responded.
If genocides in the past or current situations of genocide are an issue that is unacceptable to you, get involved. You can learn more about human rights violations on Amnesty International’s website: www.amnesty.org. Write to the President and express your feelings. Actively become involved in an organization which takes your views to people and governments of influence. Pray. Give money to organizations which are on the front lines.
And believe your caring makes a difference.
The number of genocides worldwide during the last 50 years since the Holocaust is shocking.
We must learn about the past and learn from it.
Education is the key. And general knowledge is limited. You must seek it. Become informed. And do not give up hope. And if this issue aligns with your passion you will take action.
If you need help figuring out how to do this on even the smallest of levels, contact me. Anything you do from today that is more than you’ve done in the past will change the world.
There was a final quote at the memorial which was written by Stephen Smith, Aegis Trust. The Aegis Trust was established to combat genocide. In part, he said,
“If you must remember, remember this:
in the genocide they killed one, then another then another.
Genocide is not a single act of murder. It is a million acts of murder”
We must never forget.
You can view information about the Aegis Trust their website: www.aegistrust.org
What a trip.
Today (June 25th) during our 10 hour layover in Nairobi we visited a safari game park. It was beautiful and peaceful and a wonderful transition back into the world.
We drove many miles and saw ostriches, giraffes, a lion peeking her head out of the grass, rhino, an angry water buffalo, monkeys, beautiful birds, a crocodile, vultures and many more of God’s creatures. They were so peaceful.
Seeing them across the land in wide open spaces takes any romance out of the most beautiful of zoos. I wonder what happens to their spirits when they are captured and held. There is nothing natural about living in a city, surrounded by laughing children (who actually look delicious to some of our wild friends), noisy adults and all manner of foreign behaviors. For many of those we cage their natural instinct is to migrate. What happens when we remove all that is natural from a creature? What does its life really become?
How has this experience changed my life and what will my life become going forward?
I compare Rwanda to Mt. St. Helens. When the mountain erupted in 1980, the ash spread over the land and obliterated all signs of life. I flew over the area with my dearest friend Houl, and over and over on the microphone the helicopter pilot repeated, “Total devastation”. It was like a moonscape. All lay gray, quiet, dead. The popular opinion was that “life” would not come back to the area for many years. And yet life came back sooner than anyone thought was possible. That is nature. That is the unknowing. The miracle.
Rwanda strikes me similarly. No one expected the country to come back so soon from total devastation. But over 11 years later, great strides have been made and the ability of people to overcome is a process that is at times slow, but always glorious.
I think about my journey to Rwanda and all that I experienced and observed. Many unnatural things have happened in Rwanda and yet the human spirit will not be denied. I witnessed beauty, grace, and an absolute stubbornness that there is more and there is hope.
So I end where I began. Instead of talking about hope, it was given abundantly to me.
- My spirit is renewed with hope!
- That a child’s delight is pure and can overcome its circumstances;
- A Mother’s love for her children should be honored and supported no matter the circumstances of how a child came to be;
- Helping another regardless of the outcome is far superior to believing it won’t make a difference;
- Love can be found anywhere and is its own reward;
- Businesses can succeed under the most dire of conditions when there is passion, drive and focus;
- In America, we have barely begun. If we know that the maximum use of our brain is 12%, what would be possible if we used it all;
- Laughter is truly the universal language. To smile at someone requires looking into their eyes and seeing a shared moment. And all those smiles will never leave your soul;
- My passion for Rwanda was more real than I ever imagined. Though I only believe I will walk on this earth during one lifetime walking through Rwanda was as natural and familiar as walking through my days in Portland;
- I will go back. With all my passion and purpose and desire to make a difference. And I will once more hold friends that have a part of my heart;
If for any reason I never see Rwanda again, this journey has profoundly changed my life. And I am better for it. My love for my family, for John, for my life and its privileges is deepened.
This journaling is a tricky thing for me. It’s as unnatural as me being quiet and demure! What almost stopped me from journaling at all is my desire for perfection. I’ve decided to give that up because I have felt the love and prayers of many of you on this journey and my feeble attempts to describe it is the only way I can try and share the wonder of all I have seen.
Thank you for indulging me and cheering me on, especially those of you who have written. You encouraged (and continue to encourage) me greatly. Your words absolutely warmed my heart. And that is the kindness and power I took with me to Rwanda.
Your smallest gesture mattered. And it always does.
To my traveling companions in Rwanda, I thank you for your kindness to me.
Jeff Grubb and Tim Teckman have been to Rwanda before and their efforts, compassion, expertise and business acumen have made Rwanda a richer place for their caring. They are two of the finest men I have ever traveled with (ok – they told me to say that – but there is a tremendous amount of truth in their joke!)
LuAnn Yocky richly blessed my life with her kindness and leadership on our journey. She is funny and kind and caring and compassionate. She moves through the world with grace and serves all she meets.
To the staff at Vision Finance and World Vision: know that your efforts are blessed by God and inspired. Your attitudes and service “to the least of these” serves God in the most powerful way imaginable. Do not become discouraged. We are all cheering you on and humbled by your greatness and modesty.
To all who followed my dream and shared my passion: marakoze cyane (thank you very much). I was 10,000 miles away from you all but you were often on my mind and I felt a great responsibility to tell you what I was seeing and feeling.
There is enough passion in me for Rwanda and enough work to be done that I think my gaze will always be on this beautiful country. There is much to do and I will do my
This journey continues. I have decided to start a foundation for “all things Rwanda” and more information will be following on future events and ways you, too, can support this part of the world.
As for you:
- Find your passion.
- Build a dream.
- Do not be discouraged, and
- Know that the greatest journeys we live are the ones we choose.
If you become overwhelmed remember what the young African boy said before the International AIDS conference in South Africa:
Do what you can
Where you are
With what you have
In the time you have left
The wisdom of a child should not be argued.
God bless you all and thank you so much for your love and support.
On our last night in Kigali, Richard Nyirinkwaya read us this poem he had written in our honor. I dedicate it to all of you and thank you for caring about others.
Do You Remember?
Do you remember the days Rwanda was destructed because of Genocide?
Do you remember the days Rwanda was a hopeless country?
Do you remember the days Rwandan people were traumatized?
Do you remember the days Rwanda orphans were dying of hunger?
The days Rwandan children were frustrated, traumatized, and hopeless because of poverty;
The days Rwandan children lived with no food, no water, no medical care and no school fees;
Do you remember the days Rwandan widows were always thinking of how they will survive with a huge number of orphans from their relatives and friends?
Oh God… People of God… People blessed to live in the developed countries… People of mercy…Do you remember?
Do you? … Do you remember the days widows living with HIV/AIDS were rejected by the society?
Do you remember those days children were dying of malaria, tuberculosis, diarrhea, and other diseases due to poverty?
Do you remember the days the poverty was like a curse to widows of genocide and those of HIV/AIDS, to teenagers living alone in the villages where nobody was caring for them? To be a child in those days was a curse!
But nowadays, the poverty is alleviated because of Vision Finance Company, because of your giving?
Nowadays widows use the loan from Vision Finance Company and make small business!
Nowadays there is a hope to live for those poor people, a hope to send their children to school, a hope to get medical care, and a hope to feed their children and themselves!
Nowadays, there is a hope for those poor people living with HIV/AIDS to run their own business from Vision Finance Company and live with no shame!
This is your fruit, people of God, continue in that way
This is your vision, People of God, to go down there in the villages, find those poor people rejected by Society and raise them by giving them loans with low interest than other micro finance you can find in Rwanda!
This is what you expect to be done and this is what is done in Vision Finance Company. This is our Key Mission. Rise up the fund and you will be satisfied of your wonderful vision.
Rwandan poor people, Rwandan people living with HIV/AIDS, Rwandan widows, Rwandan orphans are always singing VIVA Vision Finance Company s.a
And we as staff of Vision Finance Company s.a we are always sings VIVA LuAnn Yocky, VIVA Vicky, VIVA Tim, VIVA Jeff, VIVA Oregon investors and be blessed forever and ever!
GOD BLESSES YOU!
June 24, 2005
NYIRINKWAYA Richard Braddock
HR and Administration Officer
Vision Finance Company s.a
“Eat your vegetables! There are children in Africa who are starving.” If I heard that once, I heard it a hundred times as a child. And I would think, “No child would want to eat these peas I’m trying to hide under my plate!”
I was wrong. I now know what a starving child in Africa looks like. And it’s sobering to realize an impoverished child may have one meal a day, if they’re lucky. But it’s very possible they won’t get to eat this day at all.
Children should not suffer due to man’s mistakes and evils. The children in Rwanda live daily with the results of man’s inability to live in peace. And we cannot idly stand by.
I had never seen so many children that I knew were living in substandard conditions. They are gentle and loving and have never known excess, except possibly of hunger and sadness.
The children’s effect on me was one of the strongest of everything I saw, felt or heard. Because they are the innocent ones. And they deserve our protection and concern, even from so far away.
There was a young boy who was left alone with his two younger siblings after both parents died. He wanted to keep his family together and so he did whatever he could to bring in money, but it was not enough. Some days he would have his little brothers lie very still and not move all day so that they didn’t expend any energy and not be as hungry.
World Vision stepped in and gave him support and now he is able to keep his family alive and together.
The mission of World Vision reads in part, “…to help children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty. We serve the world’s poor – regardless of a person’s religion, race, ethnicity, or gender.”
By the end of the genocide in 1994, 95,000 children had been orphaned. By 2001, an estimated 264,000 children had lost one or both parents to AIDS, representing 43% of all orphans. This figure is expected to grow over 350,000 by 2010. The statistics get grimmer: more than 400,000 children are out of school. 1 in 5 Rwandan children die before their fifth birthday. (source: unicefusa.org)
So what do these statistics “look” like? Simply the faces of beautiful little children. Wherever we went, there were children. They gathered quickly whenever we stopped. And they were very dear. We would take their pictures and then show them the digital photographs on the camera.
They crowded around to see: their little hands all over my hands and arms, gently trying to see the photos. So many more children than adults.
I was struck by the lack of toys. There were no pre-made toys in sight. Homemade toys: cans on a string, rags tightly knotted to make a soccer ball. All wooden bikes.
The older children danced and sang and acted typical of all children: in turn inquisitive, shy, bold, self conscious, and gloriously unrestrained.
I wondered how many were very sick and would die within the year. There is a high risk of bacterial diarrhea, hepatitis A, typhoid fever and malaria. And the poorest children, with their lack of nutrition, medicine and fresh running water are highly susceptible to these diseases. HIV/AID is also taking a devastating toll on the children.
At times, it was absolutely overwhelming. Without organizations such as World Vision, it’s frightening. But these organizations are not giving up.
I’d often heard about the child sponsorship programs but was skeptical that you really were getting a “real” child. But it’s true.
I now understand that all the faces of children that we see in the pictures are not to get our sympathy. They are to cause action.
When you sponsor a child, it is the child you see in the picture. And sponsoring a child saves their life. It provides food, clothing, and education.
Education is not provided for free and everyone who attends must buy a uniform. Without funds, there is no education. And education is part of the solution to end poverty. Without our assistance, many hundreds of thousands of children will never experience the joy of learning.
Vision Finance, the micro loan program for which we raised money and that I came to support, offers real hope and solutions to the adults who can then care for their children and the orphans they take in.
It is nothing for a widow to be raising her own 5 or 6 children plus 4 or 5 orphans and to be running a business sponsored through the loans of Vision Finance. These businesses are truly life giving.
In the towns and villages I met these women. They face incredible odds and are succeeding. Children’s lives are being saved.
It’s funny; I thought the piece I journaled about the genocide was a bit depressing. Well, as I read what I’ve written I see that this piece isn’t exactly lightness and laughter! But that’s ok. I promised to write what I felt and saw. And I wasn’t visiting with the wealthy and well off of Rwanda. I was there to serve the poor. And their situation deserves honesty.
What are the solutions? I have a few thoughts. Please give it some thought on your own as well:
- Take good care of the children in your life. Cherish them. Thank God that in America they will never face many of the challenges that are a daily threat to children elsewhere.
- Teach your children how to care for others. Show compassion and help them learn the same through your example.
- If you are so moved, sponsor a child through World Vision or another reputable relief agency.
- Believe that your actions, however small you might think they are, make a huge difference, especially to the child you affect.
- Give money to organizations that go directly to the front lines so that they may do this work with love and purpose.
- Pray for those who need God’s protection.
The staff I met at World Vision and Vision Finance are some of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met. This work, which I have barely begun, is their daily walk. These are Rwandans helping their own and know that this cycle of poverty can be stopped.
It was so uplifting to meet with the staff in the main offices in Kigali and then in the branch offices out in the countryside. Amazing brave men and women who have faith and hope that their work will change lives.
It is truly an honor to support Rita Ngarambe and her team.
On our last night, we had a wonderful dinner with some of the staff. Richard Nyirinkwaya wrote a poem in our honor. But it really is about the Vision Finance Staff and the empowerment they feel. Lives are saved and changed because of this work.
Our efforts are not wasted.
Rwanda. It is known as the land of 1000 hills. It is also said to be the place where God comes to rest at night. And I can see why. This is a beautiful country, lush and green. It looks abundant and rich and can deceive you in what it appears it can provide to feed and nourish its people.
Few crops grow well due to the soil acidity and lack of organic fertilizer. I’ve not seen any large herds of animals of any sort. Some goats, chickens, a few cows.
The city of Kigali rests on many of the thousands of hills that fill this country. With over 600,000 people in this sprawling city there are people everywhere. There are relatively few large office buildings and many of the largest are governmental.
I walk into a large hotel called the Novatel and once inside I could be in any international hotel in the world. But I prefer the streets and its people.
Well dressed, or poorly dressed and shoeless, all walk without complaint up and down the hills and streets of Kigali. Many women (and some men) carry the traditional loads on their heads. But it is not to keep their hands free for other activities. The loads they carry could not be held in their arms because of their enormity and weight.
And those loads may crush a spine over time. Our heads and necks were never meant to carry 50 pounds, but this is often the burden they must carry. And in some ways it represents the burden this country carries to repair its soul.
Some days we would leave Kigali and travel into the countryside to meet with recipients of the World Vision, and specifically Vision Finance (the micro loan program I support). As we traveled out of the city, hundreds of people from many miles would be walking or riding their bikes into Kigali to sell their milk or goods. We were easily 10 – 15 miles outside of the city before this progression slowed.
Roughly the size of Massachusetts, Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in Africa. The majority of the 8 million people live outside the capital, Kigali. The poverty is extraordinary and shocking.
How the Poorest and Most Vulnerable Live,
and programs with World Vision that support them
Some of the housing is so poor and shoddy that I cannot comprehend how people sleep in these places at night. The floors are often dirt, the walls made of mud, and the roof is tin and broken and held in place with rocks and old wood and metal scraps. There are no doors or glass in the holes which are the windows. Immediately next to a home with this much poverty can be a modest home with windows, rooms and solid walls and a tiled roof.
We visit a home of a woman* who is a widow. Four of her nine children live with her in a mud walled home that is 6 X 7 (42 square feet). The entire home. The space inside is separated by a piece of cloth. She sleeps on a bench with two of her littlest children, 2 others sleep in the “front” room. Her children range from 25 to 4 years of age. Some are out living on their own. The other children live with her Mother, also a widow. She cooks outside the door in a pot where she fries potatoes that she sells to her neighbors who live 3 feet away. This is in the suburbs of the city.
World Vision is going to build her a home on the same site which will have concrete walls and a roof and glass windows. She will still not have electricity or running water. But this program within World Vision assists the most vulnerable in the community.
Some of the side effects of the genocide in 1994 included over 300,000 orphaned children, 85,000 child headed households (CHH) and 500,000 women who were victims of rape and now infected with HIV/AIDS. HIV positive men acted as rapists as part of the strategy of the genocide. Twelve years later the effect of this brutal strategy is fully evident.
Another visit was to the home of a CHH (Child Headed Household). This young 17 year old boy* was raising his four brothers and sisters. He looks 14 and 100 at the same time and carries an enormous burden. His home consists of three small rooms. One of the rooms was falling down and uninhabitable.
He weeps with grief as he struggles each day to find enough money to feed his siblings and send them to school. World Vision is going to build him a new home on the same site. His father who died in the genocide was a craftsman. We sit in this room of crumbling walls in almost complete darkness. There is a jagged piece of broken mirror on the wall, an ancient cabinet against the wall and beautiful chairs that his father made as a woodworker.
This young man is being trained in woodworking by World Vision. He wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. He is making some money but not enough. As he wept I felt he carried the burden that no one, least of all a child, should carry to take care of his family. World Vision is also acting as his advocate and we being there gives him some stature in the community where he lives. He is extremely venerable to the adults around him and has had land that his father owned forcibly taken from him by neighbors. World Vision learned of the problem when we met with him and promised to help him get the land back. He wasn’t even going to mention it. And thank God he did.
He was magnificent in his dignity and determination and focus. He is passing through enormous grief and yet does not give up. With help, he will survive. His brothers and sisters will be educated. And if heaven works this way, may his parents long gone be blessed by the son they created who must now go on without them.
There is another program which is just beginning to help ex-prostitutes and drug addicts that is funded by World Vision.
We met with the women of this program and shared our joy at what they were overcoming.
Their choice to become a prostitute is often about survival. There is no food for many. A young (or old) woman who feels she must sell her body for survival has no trouble finding work. But it is life threatening on all levels. HIV/AIDS is spread more easily when a man will offer twice the amount if a condom is NOT used. And I’m talking small amounts of money. And when you’re starving, being paid twice as much when it’s a meager amount is extremely tempting. And the men who want them know it.
But in my interaction with the women who have stepped away from the prostitution, I found that I was meeting women to whom I could relate. Except for their earlier career choice, they were not different from me. And we connected. They cheered my attempt to communicate with them in Kinyarwanda. And they honored my granddaughter’s gift of beaded necklaces.
Jonna, my granddaughter who is 9, wanted to touch the people of Rwanda. And so she, along with my daughter in law Laura and my son Todd, made necklaces. No two alike. 300 of them. 22 pounds worth. A large carry-on’s worth. As I brought them from America I was not convinced it was a great idea (BAD Vitsy!!) but I was soon eating crow.
I told them that a child in America believed in them and was praying for them. And to never forget that we stand with them, and pray for them, and believe in them.
Through World Vision they were all part of a cooperative that makes clothes on the most ancient of sewing machines. And they gave me an outfit for Jonna. It is beautiful and I will give it to her with their love and gratefulness.
HIV/AIDS and some of the issues
Another program we visited was for HIV positive participants. They are educating and creating awareness through information, plays and talking about the issues.
In Rwanda, as in anywhere in the world, there is tremendous stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. Some officials I met with said that stigmatizing people with AIDS makes the situation worse – removed and abandoned they will lash out, re-infect others and create more deaths.
But if we show compassion to them they will become the best witnesses to people about prevention.
There is a strong spiritual side of the people of Rwanda.
Those who believe that God created us in His image know we are to honor our bodies. The message communicated is to give people the power to know their lives are too precious to abuse. It is the most important asset we have.
This message clearly serves all of us as we take care of our own health, and our own bodies, on every level.
There are currently at least 200,000 children infected with HIV/AIDS in Rwanda. Education for adults and adolescents is brutally important. The billboards are clear about the dangers of HIV and spell the message out in the ABC’s:
- A – Abstain until married
- B – Be faithful when married
- C – Condoms must be used, if you can’t follow A and B
Finally, if you ignore the A, B and C’s of prevention, there’s the final letter:
Hard to miss that message. But condoms are not available everywhere and the poorest cannot get them easily. If there is a choice between food and a condom, guess what wins.
Men who prey on young girls who are starving offer to pay them more money if they don’t use a condom… what can I say? It’s a terrible battle for the bodies of women. And yet I believe that Rwanda’s honest and blunt approach to this problem will help turn the tide.
One final story for this journal entry
On Wednesday night I decided to attend a Rotary meeting in Kigali. It looked like any other Rotary meeting until they told us the speakers and their topic. It was titled “The proper way to use male and female condoms!” And they had props!! And they didn’t hesitate to use them or graphically give all the details!!!
To watch 30 business people dissolve into giggling reminded me of being in a sex education class in the 1960’s. There was absolutely an intent to use some humor – which was good because it was over the top in the way it was presented. But I learned a lot!!
And that’s the point, yes? What I mostly learned was that this country and its people are serious about stopping the prevention of AIDS and condom use, given that Abstinence and Being faithful are the first lines of defense, Condom use must be discussed. And religious issues must also be addressed. Interestingly, the government has not taken a stand on the use of condoms. Lots of issues, but people are not waiting until everything is perfect before they act.
And I think that’s my point so far. It’s not perfect. The solutions aren’t perfect. But this country is full of people determined to get past the incident of the genocide in 1994. It does not define this country. It is the catalyst that changed this country forever. And there are many that have hope and believe that this country can be saved.
I stand as one of them.
For information about the genocide, please visit this website:
* All people mentioned are a composite of situations I observed or heard about.
What brings me to this point in my life that I must travel to Africa? Where in my soul do I feel God’s call? And how do I translate it into a meaningful journey for myself and all of the hearts of the people I am taking with me?
I trust. I pray. I hope. I hope for clarity of purpose. I hope for eyes to see what God has for me. I hope for compassion and grace. And I hope I will make a difference.
Getting the opportunity to change another’s life is constant. Choosing to do it and then succeeding is the miracle.
I read a quote that said that the role of the journalist is to speak for them that have no voice. As some journalism becomes more about entertainment others will certainly step up and take the reins. Is that part of my role? to speak for those whose voice cannot be heard? I can see that yes that makes sense to me.
I am not for the faint of heart and I am not ashamed of that. And it just occurred to me that the work I’ve chosen and the life I’ve chosen is also not for the faint of heart. I am so thankful that I am a tough little monkey. I’m strong, focused, determined and intent on using all my skills in a more powerful way and with greater success than I have ever done before.
I am curious about what fears and obstacles I will face. The only thing between any of us and our greatness is the “we” or “me.” And I want the “me” to continually becoming less of a problem. How have I learned to do this — and how can I teach it? How can any of bring a message that changes the outlook for others — that gives them more hope, greater clarity and the knowledge from their heart that this is possible.
I know that living your dream and possibly losing it all in the attempt is better than never having that focus.
Coming to Rwanda is not scary. I believe Keir’s (Keir Pearson, screenwriter of Hotel Rwanda) expression that evil touched down in Rwanda is as clear a way as any to describe how this happened. It’s the why that I seek. And while I am blessed with a less inquisitive mind than most, I look for answers and seek a way that those answers can bring us a greater truth than we ever would have known without that set of events happening.
I know so clearly that we are all the same. And for those who believe that the color of our skin, or our birthplace or our social status make us better or different they are, quite simply, wrong. When skin rots off a body and all that is left is the frame that help the organs now vanished, we are all simply the same.
And so what do I do with this unoriginal revelation. I look for answers; I look for success; I look for wisdom, in anyone.
A child’s clarity of the world is breathtaking. A beautiful 8 year old child who looks at the world very seriously asked me why I was coming to her country. She looks at the world very seriously because she has already had disappointments and so things matter to her.
And I told her I was going to Rwanda to talk about hope. And to tell the women of Rwanda that if they believe and focus that they can be anything they want to me. And she looked at me with the eyes of an old soul and said, “the African people will like you very much.” So that is my prayer. That this “like” will come from a place in them that is better for us meeting.
I am not coming to sightsee or be a sight. I am coming so that whatever this burning thirst is that is within me can be slaked if only partially. And that the information and respect shared can come back to America and be geometrically multiplied.
What drew all of those women to our event? And how do we keep their fires burning or their embers glowing? And what are they doing to change their world?
What one small thing could each of them begin today that will keep them on the road to becoming their personal best. The smallest kindness to a child, the aged, a creature cannot be overlooked. The words spoken in anger, once said, never stop causing pain. And the gentlest of smiles can change someone for a lifetime.
I am not overly optimistic about this. And if you’re reading this and think I’m a little much, you’re wrong. I am just right.
My Mother Rita was the wise woman who saved me from never knowing true joy. She lived through hell as a child and determined at a young age never to become her Mother. And through sheer determination, she did not. She was no saint, but she was an angel on earth without wings. She loved me and my brothers without demands, without expectations, and without strings. And she was irresistible to us all.
She knew truth - and was not shy about telling me when I was wrong. And that’s how she’d simply say it, “Vic, you’re wrong”. And she was usually right. So I’ve picked up that lovely trait of not defending what I know is truth, just living it.
So how do I take this incredible wisdom to a great level. I share it with others. And I ask them to know that they know what they know. And then prove it by living it.
I ask my clients to push themselves hard. And when I don’t ask, or they don’t push, I don’t think the conversations nearly as interesting to either of us. But to strive and yearn and reach and touch the dream is what unleashes joy. As I yearn and reach and strive to find wisdom I am reminded that this goal is not for the faint of heart. And where evil can touch down, grace will surely follow. And may this grace follow me in these next few days.