Archive for August, 2010

I spent four days in Kabul when I was seventeen.

I spent days in a lot of places when I was sixteen and seventeen – 32 countries in fact – but that’s another story. This story is one small piece of that larger story.

We, my mom, dad, sister, our Swiss friend, Jacqueline, and I stayed in the home of Tom and Libby Little in downtown Kabul. Tom was an eye doctor who, with his wife and three small children, had moved to Kabul that year. They had been planning to stay just two years, but had now decided to stay there for the rest of their lives.

Somewhere, I hope, in my parents’ garage, is a box containing hundreds of Kodak slides from our journeys that year. Somewhere among them are photos of Kabul. When I find them, I intend to digitize them. Then I’ll update this blog and post them here. In the meantime, here’s a blog I found that talks about Kabul in the late seventies and beyond. This might give you an idea of what it was like. I wish I could show you pictures. If you Google images for Chicken Street in Kabul, you’ll get an idea of the colorful crazy mix that this place still is.

What I remember about those few days in the summer of 1977 was how happy Tom and Libby seemed to be. They had just started this work, and were falling in love with Afghanistan. I remember Libby taking my mom and me down Chicken Street, in Kabul to go shopping. The colors, the smells, the dead animals hanging in the butcher shops, the flies, the women in bright jewel toned shiny flowing burkes that hid their entire face and body, the hawkers, Libby haggling with the shop keepers for everything from butter to scarves, the American tie-dyed long-haired hippies shopping for pot and opium on their way to Nepal on the Kathmandu Trail in search for enlightenment, the men sitting in front of their shops smoking their hookahs, the dust, the music, the crowds, the energy. There were American missionaries who went to Kabul specifically to minister to the American hippy enlightenment seekers. Tom and Libby may have started out this way, I don’t know. But they fell in love with the Afghanis and that’s where they stayed. They warned us in the strictest terms not to mention Jesus, or share our faith with any Afghani. It could be a death sentence for the Afghani and could get Tom & Libby arrested and expelled from the country.

I remember the children who gathered around Tom and Libby’s home waiting for us to emerge so they could smile sweetly, tug on our skirts, and hold out their hands. I remember giving them pieces of bread from a loaf that Tom and Libby gave us.

I remember wondering at the thought that Tom and Libby were going to make this place their home. That they weren’t here for some short-term mission. They had fallen in love with these beautiful people and were moving to Afghanistan, permanently.

We kept up with them for some years through their newsletter, and my dad corresponded with Tom for a while. I wish I had been more self (and others) aware at that time and had stayed in touch with them myself. We heard about them continuing to stay through civil war, the Russian invasion, political uprisings, overthrows, bombings, massacres, the Taliban, and on and on and on…. to bring optical and medical care to the Afghan people.

They had a deep and profound faith in God and exercised that faith by loving the people of Afghanistan. And they were loved in return. In an interview with NPR in 2003, Tom explains why they stayed, even through very dangerous times. He said that he and Libby identified so much with the Afghanis that leaving when it was dangerous, running home to the U.S. where it was safe, seemed cowardly and shameful, when their Afghani friends and patients could not leave.

Three weeks ago, while returning from an arduous trek into some remote mountain villages, Tom and nine members of the medical team he led were executed by the Taliban.

We all believe in something, and that belief governs our actions – whether we are aware of it or not. The Taliban accused Tom of proselytizing, which of course was untrue. Tom didn’t have to tell people about the God he worshiped. He showed them – through his courageous love. The militants who murdered Tom and the rest of his team were also sending a message about the god they worship.

I grieve for Libby and for their daughters. And I grieve for the people of Afghanistan who are being held hostage by this brutal inhuman band of murderers and tyrants, and who have lost a beloved friend who did nothing but give sight to the blind.

Thirty-three years ago they were young and I was younger. I was just beginning traveling down my own road to enlightenment. They had already found theirs giving and loving the people in Afghanistan.

Out of Excuses

Since my last post four weeks ago was about the Drive Thru Daiquiris in New Orleans, I think a few people wondered if Steve and I just stayed there driving and drinking…. Or if we drove off the road and that was it. Nope. After saying thanks and good-bye to cutie-pie Eric, we returned the rental car and got on the plane to fly home.

Now I’ve been home for the same amount of time as my entire turning-fifty-with-my-girlfriends journey. That went by fast! As soon as I got back, I wanted to wrap up my journey with a cool posting about all I had learned…. But that didn’t happen.

First week back from my journey I indulged in the desire to sleep and to reconnect with my home.

Second week I went to be with my parents after my dad’s surgery.

Third week I had my granddaughter and my niece and nephew for the  weekend. So here we are. First sane, undisturbed Friday and I’m out of excuses.

Being with my girlfriends helped me accept the fact that I work BEST under pressure. I don’t like it. I’ve beaten myself up about it for years. But it’s true. When I was on my trip I would write almost every day. Kim got me started. She didn’t have internet access at her house, so we had to get up and get going to Guglhupf so I could write. Kim would sit there patiently all morning reading her book while I wrote and uploaded photos. She had lots of cool things planned for when I was done, but we couldn’t do any of them until I posted my daily update on my blog. Harrah and Sandy would make little comments like “Are you STILL writing that thing? Aren’t you done yet? I can’t believe how much time that thing takes! We’re leaving in five minutes, you can finish it later.” And other encouraging words. Just enough pressure to keep me focused.

Now I’m back at home, back into my routines, and life is, well… life. Monday through Thursday I am deeply focused on my somewhat stressful job which has a tendency to purge all the creative energy out of my brain cells. By the time Friday, Glorious Friday rolls around, I go through a recovery phase. Sleep in a little, get up and spend an hour reading, then start to think about all the things I want to do to build my coaching practice, do calls when they are scheduled, and… oh yeah… update my blog. The day stretches before me like a luxurious sandy beach…. And before I know it, Friday is over and the update is not written.

I promised Kim I would go this morning and sit in a wi-fi coffee shop. So here I am in Café Azul in downtown Santa Rosa, with a two-hour parking pass, a rented table, and a fantasy that I’m on vacation in Santa Rosa and Kim is sitting across the table patiently reading her book. I miss you, Kimmie!

For the rest of this year, I’ll be unpacking the gifts I gathered on this journey. Right up there wrinkled on the top of the suitcase are two related concepts.
1. how vitally important true friends are and
2. what a difference community can make in our quality of life.

Francis Bacon, in his essay “Of Friendship”, wrote something that seemed harsh. “I have given the rule, where a man cannot fitly play his own part; if he have not a friend, he may quit the stage.” This was after describing all the amazing benefits a true friend brings to one’s life. I wouldn’t tell you to “quit the stage”. But I would say, if you don’t have a friend, go out and get one. My mom used to tell me whenever I was lonely, “If you want to have a friend, you must first BE a friend.” A little truth that has come in handy many times.

So my first new years’ resolution for being fifty is to BE a friend – a true friend…. To stay in touch with my far-away girlfriends…. And to put more effort into cultivating my close-to-home friendships; which brings me to the second gift in my suitcase…

What a difference community can make in our quality of life.

I saw how Kim has invested herself in building community where she lives. She had some close friends there who moved away…. So she joined a “meet-up” group and is rapidly developing a cool little gang of gals that share the common characteristic of getting booted out of the original group for being too independent. Perfect for my one-of-a-kind girlfriend who loves and accepts everyone just as they are while never wavering from being absolutely true to herself.

Harrah is a fish who has found her pond. She’s an artist who is surrounded by other artists. They inspire and support each other, and send each other business. It’s all good.

Sandy thrives in church and has dedicated herself to serving in her new community. She hasn’t been in her new home as long as Harrah and Kim have been in theirs, but she is on the path to building her community.

I confess, I lost my pond. So I’m committed this year to finding it again. Finding the water I can swim in and thrive. I’ve changed and my old pond has changed too. It’s time for a new chapter. My girlfriends have taught me it can be done – at fifty or at any age. And I’m committed to deepening and strengthening my marriage in the process. I’m not running off to find myself and leave my poor husband behind. Interestingly, I read Eat, Pray, Love while on my journey. Loved it, except for the leaving the husband part… but that’s her story, not mine. We’re in this together… whatever that looks like. In whatever ways I grow in this new decade, I’m committed to using it to ENHANCE and serve our marriage and make both our lives better, and you can hold me to that.