"I was a little girl
alone in my little world
who dreamed of a little home for me
I played pretend between the trees
and fed my houseguests bark and leaves
and laughed in my pretty bed of green
I had a dream
that I could fly from the highest swing
I had a dream"
I discovered this song in mid-June of last year, loving it so much and listening to it on repeat. It was in my head all through my time in Zambrano, and I hummed it to myself constantly.
The song reminds me of when I was a small lass of ten, and I used to roam the green pastures of my childhood and daydream... I remember when my life was simpler, though it didn't seem that way then. And I'm all too certain that in another ten years I'll look back on my life now and perceive it to be simpler now. I will only gain more in the way of knowledge and understanding as I grow older, and that makes the mess of my mind feel so much . . . messier. But of all the new things that I learn, one thing that I'm realizing more and more since I've left my teens is that the things that were at the forefront of my everyday ideas of what mattered really don't matter at all. Like the amassing of things. The need for a lot of money. The plans every child unknowingly makes that involve good grades so they can get into a good college so they can get a good education so they can get a good job so they can make good money so they can have a good family so they can raise good kids to get good grades to go to a good college and so on.
The American Dream is something I'm looking at and wondering if it aligns at all with the dream Jesus had. It is defined as the opportunity for prosperity and success according to ability and achievement, and I'm not so sure that's exactly what Jesus had in mind. It's not a sin to own your own home, but Jesus was homeless. It's not a sin to work hard to provide income, but Jesus lived entirely off of the generosity of others (specifically rich wives, but that's beside the point). When I look at the system that has been set in place as industry and time swiftly proceed, I begin to wonder if the faces that are left behind were worth the price. And I shutter when I think that I have been a part of leaving those faces behind.
I look at the food in my pantry, and I wonder whose hands were responsible for growing what made that food. And do those hands get to rest as often as mine do? I look at the clothes in my closet, and I wonder whose child's hands were responsible for putting them together. And did I really need half of those clothes? Many of us would look at our full closets and pantries, and we think we are blessed, but when I realize that these blessings were borne on the backs of cheap labor and exploited humans, I begin to wonder if they are really blessings at all. God has blessed America, we say, but by torturing the workers of other countries? I have realized that my failure as a Christian was not so much that I bought a cup of coffee, not sure who was rightfully paid for it or that I have helped to keep Old Navy in business. My failure was that I succumbed to the belief that this is the only way of living. This is what is offered to me, so I have to take it.
And I then realize that an even deeper failure exists beneath all that. It is the failure to believe that as a being of God's image, I have the ability to create, meaning that my imagination is to reflect God's imagination. I have failed to believe that God's imagination for how we are to live is way bigger than, and not limited to the ways of living that are so infused into our society. I have been given new eyes to see that the way of Jesus is possible without leaving others behind, with our scraps and leftovers - if we've left any. Jesus had a dream where the kingdom that he was/is building would be a kingdom open to everyone, and that has to start with me. Everyone deserves a full life, and so much is required for that: food, education, medicine, friendship. There is no reason why everyone in the world cannot have that other than those who have too much will not give to those who have none. I read once that the only way to make poverty history is to make affluence history. I don't need ten coats and thirty sweaters. Especially when the majority of my neighbors have none.
I would like very much to wake up every day and commit to a different path. A path that excludes taking part in a lifestyle that has abused someone else along the way. And I know that I will fail many times. I will still buy Hershey's chocolate at some point, I will still pay four dollars for a cup of coffee, and I may buy a garment at Wal-Mart. But what I have decided for today is that I'm tired of stuff. And I really don't ever need what I think I need. What I need is to extend my hand as it holds what I've been given, and offer what I know to the sweatshop workers in Honduras who made my hoodie, or to the immigrant farmers in Florida who put the orange juice in my fridge, or to the many, many children who can't get to school because they can't afford the uniforms or the supplies. The world that Jesus dreamed of does not have to be the world I live in, and I certainly won't succeed in making it that world when I'm still stuck believing that the old way is the only way. While I miss being ten years old, and my biggest concerns were how much I hated it when people still called me "little," I am glad that my dreams have expanded as my knowledge has expanded, and I can't say for sure that I'd like to go back.
My dream now is that I will be able to look at everyone and see the image of my God reflected in them, and I will be able to clasp my hand with theirs, not as an American, but as a Christian, a sister whose familial love exceeds national, economic, societal, and racial borders.