A few weeks back I wrote about the Spero Gala, an evening to raise money to fight human trafficking. What I didn't mention was that after reading my blog about lament in December, the organizer of the event asked if I could write (and speak) a short lament for the Gala.
The event was last Friday, and I think it might have been my favourite Spero Gala yet. In addition to the soulful music by 100 Mile House and Lee and Janette, two spoken word poets performed two very inspiring pieces. It was a privilege to be part of such a significant and beautiful event.
Here are the words I shared:
There are times when the suffering in the world threatens to suffocate our words—what words can we speak when we look into the faces of those who have experienced the absolute worst that our world has to offer?
We might do well to borrow from the wisdom of the Jewish poets from generations ago, poets who,rather than ignoring the pain and injustices around them, were willing to enter into the depths of that suffering.
They wrote prayers of lament as a way to express their anger and pain, as a way to join their hearts with those who suffer.
In the book Reconciling All Things, the authors write:
“[Lament] is the cry of those who see the truth of the world’s deep wounds and the cost of seeking peace. It is the prayer of those who are deeply disturbed by the way things are…”
As one who often finds herself deeply disturbed by the way things are, I offer this lament for human trafficking:
The stories I hear overwhelm me, if I listen—really listen—to them. If I let them become more than numbers, more than distant tales that don’t touch even the edges of my life.
It’s easy to do that—to keep the suffering at arm’s length, to pretend that it’s far away, that it has nothing to do with me.
But when I listen—really listen—to the stories,
stories of children stolen from their homes
or sold by their families,
Or stories of girls—young girls—given shiny promises of a better life,
in a different town,
promises of work and money to send home,
but then find themselves drugged and forced into a brothel,
with no power, no choice;
Stories of nannies working in my city,
in my neighbourhood,
who are held hostage by their employers,
Stories of women and men,
moved from city to city,
truck stop to truck stop,
as the supply and demand for prostitutes ebbs and flows.
These stories overwhelm me.
These stories overwhelm me when I look at my own son and daughters,
with love flooding my heart,
wondering how I could keep breathing if they weren’t here,
and I remember that other mothers have lost their daughters and sons
to this horrible business that we have all kept secret for so long.
These daughters and sons, mothers and fathers,
have names and faces,
and songs they know by heart.
How long can we “see the truth of the world’s great wounds” and pretend that we all aren’t bleeding because of them?
How long can we glimpse the underbelly of our world, and continue life as usual?
How long can we allow people to be treated as property, bought and sold and transported like they are nothing more than a commodity?
How long can we pretend that the coffee we drink and the clothes that we buy for so cheap didn’t come at great cost to someone else?
How long can we wring our hands, feeling helpless, knowing that we need to respond, but not knowing how?
How long can we feel overwhelmed by these stories, overwhelmed by the vast size of this tragedy,
before we decide to stop standing by,
before we decide to enter in,
to let our tears mingle with theirs and propel us toward change?
May our anger and our sadness last long enough to move us to respond,
To push us to look for hope in unexpected places,
To, in fact, be bearers of hope,
Agents of change,
Harbingers of freedom