I know it’s going to be a rough day when, within five minutes of leaving my house, I see a blue, mid-nineties Grand Am.
It’s a rather odd thing to say, I realize, as I’m sure if you see a blue, mid-nineties Grand Am you probably don’t give it a second thought.
For me, a blue, mid-nineties Grand Am reminds me of him.
The one I trusted.
The one I loved.
The one, who I thought, loved me.
But it wasn’t a real love, the way he loved me.
It was a twisted “love” that made me believe it was okay for a man – a pastor – of his age, nearly ten years my senior, to love a girl like me…a sixteen year old.
He drove a blue, mid-nineties Grand Am.
Fortunately, many American cars don’t make it past their tenth birthday, so a blue, mid-nineties Grand Am sighting is a rare occurrence, but when I caught a glimpse of one as I pulled onto I-65 yesterday morning, I knew it was going to be a bad day.
Instantly, I was pulled back into a time warp of my heart. I was 16 again. And 17. And I found myself innocently in love, and at the same time, unknowingly losing my innocence.
I steered my car mindlessly to the mall. A distraction.
I needed socks.
Wandering into Eddie Bauer, I ended up in a rather long conversation with a chatty salesman. He wasn’t trying to sell me anything. He was just really nice. And really conversational. I welcomed the distraction, but felt badly for not being fully present.
Most of me was still back in 1996.
I lost an hour in the mall, and popped over to Target. For what? I don’t remember, but I walked out with a cheap T-shirt.
I managed to swing by the post office, make it home, and get ready for a meeting with my manager about my new book’s release.
Still, I was only half-present.
That damned Grand Am.
How can it still take me back?
Back there…with him?
I felt sick to my stomach.
After my meeting, I drove back to Target.
Cat litter. I forgot the cat litter.
With my iPod on shuffle, I got lost in the winding roads of rural Franklin. An hour passed. Maybe two.
I couldn’t find myself.
Back to my house.
I attempted to make myself look presentable.
Honestly, I wanted to bail so badly.
I wanted to throw on some sweats and stare mindlessly at the television for hours until I fell asleep and it was a new day. But I had committed myself to doing the Blood:Water Mission Water Walk.
I love Blood:Water.
You guys know that.
But I didn’t want to go.
I didn’t want my half-present, half-missing self to go.
Selfishly, of course.
I didn’t want anyone to know anything was wrong.
I didn’t want anyone to realize I wasn’t really there.
I didn’t want anyone to look too deeply into my eyes and see the vulnerable, ashamed, naive sixteen year old who was currently inhabiting my insides.
But…I needed to go.
I needed to pull what was left of me out of my head and just do something outside of my own self-consuming and destructive introspection.
I don’t even remember the ride. I took my buckets, ran into some friends, and shared some good stories as we walked a mile down to the river to fill them up.
More distractions. It was good.
At the river, after everyone had filled their containers with river water, Dan told us for our walk back, to try and keep silent.
“Silence? No…anything but that, please,” I pleaded in my head.
And, he added, we should try and keep the water inside since if we were really African, every drop of water that’s carried is a drop of precious life.
The first fifty steps or so were easier than I imagined.
With each step though, the bucket became heavier.
The wind, colder.
Keeping balance in order to not spill the water, more difficult.
I stared down at my bucket, watching the water float back and forth and side to side.
The weight of the water – this small act I was doing simply to represent a necessary and daily time consuming task for so many people around the world – had transported me back from 1996.
I became present again.
Here and now.
And my bucket felt so much heavier.
I lost track of where my friends went. I took off my mittens to experience the sharp pain of the cold wind.
I wanted to feel the pain.
It wasn’t fair what these women and children had to do every single day.
I tried to imagine carrying a bucket ten times heavier than mine for ten times longer than I carried it.
How do they do it?
It wasn’t fair.
Why is it so difficult for hundreds of millions of people to access it?
I realize the goal of these events isn’t about what they can do for me. It’s about what we can do for others. And I don’t know what it was about the mile back carrying a small bucket of Tennessee water but something inside me healed.
Something inside me was restored.
Just a little bit.
But that little bit was just enough.
Was it the community around me? A blend of friends, acquaintances and strangers coming together in such a powerful way?
Was it simply pushing myself to pull out of the selfish cycle of negativity I had been dwelling in all day?
Was it realizing a common, broken thread of humanity and a same common need for rescue?
I don’t know.
Maybe it was all of those things, and things I didn’t even see or feel or realize.
But something happened underneath the weight of it all.
The weight of my past and the most broken part of my soul.
The weight of poverty and the most broken part of the world.
Redemption only can be recognized when the broken is let out.
And it can happen unexpectedly.
And I am grateful.
The reality is 325 million Africans don’t have access to clean water. That is more than the population of the US. $25 provides an African clean water for life. Please take a moment and consider making a donation here.