“it’s that sense of powerlessness that destroyed my soul. i cannot be as good as i would like to be.nor as bad as i think i need to be.i think you have the same doubts that your goodness was not rewarded.”
― Paulo Coelho
“Being tall is an advantage, especially in business. People will always remember you. And if you’re in a crowd, you’ll always have some clean air to breathe.”
It was Bastille Day in Paris, 1989. We were young, in love, and spending the summer with packs on our backs and Eurail passes in our pockets. Fresh from the Louvre, we ambitiously boarded the train back to our hostel. Feeling relieved to find a seat, I carefully clutched my recent purchase: two Monet reproduction posters, just waiting to be framed and hung on our bedroom wall.
“S’il vous plaît quitter le train. Il ya un autre venant en rapide derrière nous. S’il vous plaît quitter le train,” the announcer broadcast in rapid fire French. My brain processed as quickly as I could;all I could translate was ‘Please exit the train!” before dozens of Parisians began climbing over each other, terror on their faces. That, we understood.
I felt myself getting squished down in the melee, my Monets still tightly in my grasp. Panic had set in, and the announcer continued to blare his message of terror.
Suddenly, I felt someone grab my arm. In an instant I was swept off my feet, powerless to the crowd. I sailed over subway seats, moving to the exit with amazing speed. My other arm still clutching my Monets, I somehow landed on my feet and gazed up at my boyfriend with great relief.
“Run!” he shouted, and we dashed for the stairs leading up and out of the Metro, panic coursing through our bodies. As we reached the stairs, suddenly the tension eased and the crowd began to laugh.
“Pas besoin de s’inquiéter. Le prochain train arrivera sous peu. Nous vous remercions de votre coopération.”
This time, my college level French completely left me. Language fail had left me powerless, but as I watched the next train calmly pull up behind us I realized we were safe.
As a Mother:
“It is for us to pray not for tasks equal to our powers, but for powers equal to our tasks, to go forward with a great desire forever beating at the door of our hearts as we travel toward our distant goal.”
– Helen Keller
It just seemed like the right thing to do, for some crazy reason. A leap of faith, maybe, that my children and I would be safe. Months of preparation led up to this point; immunizations, packing, fund raising and studying the Nicaraguan culture and finally, we were ready to leave.
As we gathered together in the airport, I was seized with anxiety. What was I doing? Taking my kids to a country I’d never been to, with people I didn’t know, to spend two weeks of hard work building a school in uncertain circumstances?
Sleep wasn’t an option on the red eye flight to Managua. As we gently descended my anxiety ebbed, then released. We were here. I could do this, even alone.
It was a few days later when we met him; a doe eyed, nine year old boy with closely shaved hair and no shoes. His name was Victor, and he wore the same red jersey and yellow shorts to the work site each day, darting out of the bushes as our Toyota truck clambered up the dirt road. He became our only real reason for going to the work site – his smile was that powerful. Cameron and he bonded, spending hours together scampering around the school site, finger knitting friendship bracelets and conversing easily in Spanish.
When the last day came, my tears flowed freely. Cameron hugged me as we drove away, assuring me it would be ok. And actually, in some way I knew he was right. It would be ok. We would be ok. This powerful experience would forever be etched in our heart, and his smile forever on my mind. We did this. I did this for my kids, and nothing could quite compare.
This post was inspired by the novel The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver. Mere months before Noa’s execution, her victim’s mother changed her mind Noa’s sentence and vows to help stay the execution. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Grab your copy of The Execution of Noa P. Singleton and join From Left to Write on July 30 when we discuss the book.