Sunday, April 19, 2009

Without a Helmet

My best friend in college had a motorcycle. The summer before I left for good, he fastened my helmet and told me to hold tight and he'd teach me how to fly. The next day, when I did leave, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a car behind that very bike. The light changed, and he sped far ahead, clearing me from his rearview mirror. That bike could fly, and I silently swallowed glances at the tires spinning ahead, daring each curve of mountain road to defend itself and vanishing around the next before the last had a chance to reply.

I have noticed that some experiences are so uncommon to the human reality that they can only be described by saying, "it was like I was dreaming." how strange that our dreams and our realities so closely overlap. can something be so real that we are incapable of experiencing it while maintaining consciousness? Dreams, on the other hand, are sometimes far too real to remain in our subconscious. We wake, insisting "it must have been real," and whether it was or was not really doesn't matter anymore. Death and pain are like that. Once you have actually watched someone die, it's all the same.

He flew. I looked up just in time. A sudden tension turned my body rigid, the paralysis of watching one's dearest friend race from a cliff's edge and halt, hanging from an invisible line in midair. My eyes clutched at him, motionless, in the sky, willing him to remain so. The same invisible line held me fast in my seat. My ability to breathe, to remember breathing, failed. Ice-hard lungs turned to empty, broken glass with the effort of suspending time. But gravity would not be restrained, nor the impending pain defied.

He fell. An acid scream rose, shackling my feet, shattering my knees, chasing a boiling-cold sweat to the surface of my arms, and gripping my throat where the suffocating flavor of vomit drowned an unemittable detonation of sound.

Relief did not come upon waking to find myself alone in a dark room, as soaked in sweat and tears as I had been in the pool of his blood. The pain was thicker. No matter that I had leapt from our wrecked car and broken my wrist in an effort to reach his crumpled body. My best friend was dead. I collapsed on the pavement beside his shattered skull and wept until I was not awake or asleep.


Funny how it's the most important things that never get said. Maybe we need our dreams to say them for us. It's been another year now, since the night I watched you fall and both our hearts burst on the pavement. Since then I've learned some things that I wish I could tell you.

Funny, how many tears fell because I thought that dream was true, and how many fall now because it wasn't. Maybe I really wept because, the truth is, you're alive, even without me there to catch you.

Funny how, instead, you didn't fall at all; you flew. And maybe if you had, then I would have said goodbye by now. Maybe then I would be moving on.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself." -Leo Tolstoy

Do What's in Front of You

Last night I attended the Keeter Center for Character Education's "poverty summit," which concluded a first annual event addressing the issue of poverty relief on a local, national, and global level. This sort of extra-curricular learning opportunity is one of the many things I will mourn upon leaving College of the Ozarks.

Ambassador Tony Hall spoke about his experiences as a Christian serving in the US Congress and his work on Poverty and Hunger during his tenure. It was inspiring to see our conservative (mostly Republican) school joining forces with "a Democrat" to address this important issue.

The man is amazing. Having spent a substantial amount of time investing himself in hunger relief, he first gained real recognition when congress cut funding the hunger relief committee of which he was head. Instead of quitting congress as his conscience nearly compelled him to do, he announced to the press that, he would begin to fast, consuming nothing but water, "until something good happened."

That "something" happened on day 20 of what ended up being a 22-day fast. Taking notice of Ambassador Hall's dedication, the World Bank offered to hold a conference on world hunger awareness, provided that he would speak for them. Little did he know that his agreement would result in a 100 Million Dollar microfinancing grant on behalf of the impoverished.

My first reaction, as yours might be, was that "of course Ambassador Tony Hall has the platform to help the poor. But let's be honest, it wouldn't exactly make the Branson Daily if I fasted for 40 days." Do I not claim to serve a God for whom the rocks would cry out in praise if I did not, and who multiplied a mouthful of bread into a meal for thousands?

I could go on and on about this and other men's life stories, but it's time to make my point.

In another story Tony Hall described walking the streets of Calcutta with Mother Theresa, and seeing poverty surrounding him in the streets. He asked her how it was even possible to make an impact in a world so full of the impoverished. "Do what is in front of you," she told him. "Not everyone can come to Calcutta."

Today, in partnership with Toms Shoes supporters all over the U.S., I am going barefoot to raise awareness on behalf of the millions of impoverished people who must go barefoot every day. That's what's in front of me right now. I can't do much, but I can do that.

In another conversation with Mother Theresa, someone asked her if she ever felt like all these things she did for people ever felt like "just a drop in the bucket."

She said no, "it feels like a drop in the ocean. But if I don't do these things, it is one less drop."

Carpe Diem, my friends.
Do what's in front of you. Do something.

One Day Without Shoes April 16 2009