First, a disclaimer. I am writing this off the top of my (bed) head. I just woke up with so many thoughts and feel like writing them will help me process some things.
So this morning I’m thinking there are these “brotherhoods” in life that we don’t choose to belong to. Groups like “addict”, “hospice”, “cancer survivor” and “widow” to name a few. But you can find yourself there one day and suddenly, when you meet someone who is also a member, there is this bond. A relief that someone else understands and relates. As well as a sense of purpose. That maybe there’s an unexpected gift or good that comes along when you can actually use what you’ve been through to help someone else.
Last night at an art show in Nashville, I got to meet my artist neighbor whose booth was behind me. His name is James Makuac and he cannot wait to tell anyone his story. Before the artist’s dinner we greeted each other and immediately he began to tell me. He is one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan”. At 11 years old, his village was attacked by men who had this mission to kill all the boys and his parents told him to run into the woods. He has survived numerous massacres and witnessed unfathomable blood shed, rape, starvation, sickness, separation from loved ones and refugee camps. He has had his hopes dashed and his sleep interupted by violence. He saw his mom 25 years after he ran for safety. She thought he was dead and he didn’t recognize her. He tells his story through his art and I loved his small book that tells what happened with his illustrations. He made it for his mom. I can’t even wrap my head around it all.
My favorite line in his book is: “My heart grew stronger because I had to walk on blistered feet.” This was written about the time he walked for 3 days through a dessert with no food on burning hot sand. And I wept because my heart could barely take it all in and he patted me on my hand and on my back and said “It’s okay. I appreciate your tears.”
When you ask James how he survived, he says it was hope. He said “You know, we are all just visitors here. This is not our home.” And he is not talking about being a refugee living in America. He knows God has a purpose for his life and telling his story is a huge part of it. I know my “problems” sure look silly now. And I know his is the type of story telling that can bring hope to everyone. Especially those like my loved one who has experienced unimaginable violence. I think it was no accident that I met him last night.
Here are some of his own words, from a post card he gifted to me: