This I Believe - 2008

"This I Believe" Essay, read at The Rudyard Kipling in Louisville, KY

4 June 2008

     The face of my savior is the face of a young girl I met in Haiti when I was fifteen years old. Her eyes were warm and wide-set above a shy, genuine smile, her head crowned with springy dark braids that glistened in the tropical sun. I knew her for only a few days. I cannot remember her name, but I will never forget her shining face, nor the way her voice stirred me as she whispered my name in her beautiful lilting Creole, calling me to a moment of transcendence that revealed to me the deepest truth I have come to understand in my short life. As we gazed into one another’s eyes, the barriers of division put in place by the world melted away: we were neither white nor black, poor nor rich, young nor old. We spoke not the same language, except that poetry that now danced between us, the wordless expression of commonality, of shared humanity, of belonging to the world and to one another. She smiled at me, and I smiled back, knowing that we both understood. In that moment, I felt that I could sense every heartbeat on the planet, every pulsation of every creature in the air and the sea, each breath of every tree, the stars swirling in the cosmos. I would feel this way almost exactly a year later as I hugged a homeless man at the St. Vincent de Paul shelter right down the street as he cried that he could not express the gratitude he felt knowing that someone saw him as more than a bum, a nobody. I sensed this as I fed a paraplegic man at Active Day two summers ago and he grasped my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “You are a very beautiful girl,” and I realized he saw his own beauty reflected in our simple act of taking time to be present to one another. I am liberated in the same way as I sit quietly under a canopy of trees or dig my feet into the sand and gaze out across the ocean, recognizing that I and my sisters and brothers of every species belong to this earth, and it is all one.
     This I believe: we are here for one another. Dissimilarity is an illusion. We must come to grasp our unity through short lives lived in a world into which we are seemingly born apart; it is our deepest and greatest spiritual challenge. Thomas Merton once said, “In the end, it is the reality of personal relationships that saves everything.” I am ever grateful for the gift my Haiti-sister and savior gave to me: a life of ever-present redemption through relationship, a life lived in reverence of the oneness that connects us all.