The Desert Within…
“Each one of us has a desert inside. An aching emptiness. A dry wasteland.”
We sat next to a tent village overcrowded with families taking refuge from genocide. But our homeless Iraqi dreamer wasn’t just describing their agonizing displacement.
He was explaining a truth about me. And you.
His kind eyes transfixed me. “We each try to hide our inner desert. We pretend it’s not there. But what can expose our cover-up? The simplicity of our mentally challenged brothers and sisters dares us to confront our desert.”
Struggling to grasp this insight, I asked, “So how do the challenged help us?”
He explained, “I learned this from Abel, a mentally challenged man we welcomed to live with us. A lifetime of rejection had left Abel unable to care for himself and yet very sensitive to others. Whenever there was conflict around him, he would get agitated and shout, ‘Don’t kill!”
He continued, “Abel could not sleep until each person assured him peace was restored. He displayed that timeless ethic of Jesus that anger is murder, so we must not delay making peace. With his relentless kindness, Abel helped us to learn to appreciate our differences.”
“Where is Abel now?” I asked.
Our dreamer burst into tears, “I lost him when we fled!”
Abel and our dreamer are among the 1.9 million displaced in northern Iraq this year. An uncle took Abel to a distant village; our dreamer’s family slept on the ground under an overpass and then took refuge in a kindergarten. His close-knit family, like many others, are now scattered across Iraq and other countries.
Some displaced families are nearing their wit’s end. Most share overcrowded shelters or tents with several other families, sleeping side-by-side on floor mats.
Pressure builds. Nerves fray. Darkness overwhelms. His face grimaces, “And when the families just can’t take the stress, the challenged are the most at risk.”
But in an instant, his face lights up again. “Joy changes that. Joy relieves pressure. Joy restores our humanity. Joy gives hope. In these days, this is our call to action!”
David and I saw that joy on dramatic display as the mentally challenged and their volunteer big brothers and sisters invited us to join their Christmas celebration. One couldn’t have imagined their trauma and hardships from their laughter, singing, and dancing.
What are the next steps of this dreamer and his volunteer team to demonstrate a living hope that sustains joy?
Trace the whereabouts of their network now scattered by war. Assess the needs of families with challenged members. Prioritize support to those families nearing the end of their rope. Innovate new ways to sustain displaced families with challenged members. And imitate the challenged brothers and sisters who pursue reconciliation and peace.
Dreams InDeed will reinforce this volunteer team to take those next steps in this unprecedented crisis. We’ll serve them as sounding boards as they focus their mission and values to engage new partners. We’ll invest in their day care solutions to give a breather to exhausted parents and day support for challenged kids. We’ll develop their capacity to transition beyond survival coping to network expansion.