I stood on a dirt road surrounded by street children. Their circumstances were dire; their situation, vulnerable. I added “inadequate” to that title I’d given to myself and let my own defenselessness wash through to my toes. Half to hide discomfort behind a camera and half to seal a moment in time, I started doing what I do.
Picture after picture, the sea of faces turned to an ocean all pushing to the front. The jumping voices called, “My turn! My turn!” and “See me! See me!". Each child with his eyes intent on my face, eagerly shared their name, their age, their brother or sister, their smile, their laughter. With each photo came the same request, “Show me!" and then, "Keep that one … it is good!!” Feeling seen and heard in that moment where otherwise existed invisibility, was magic as the air grew thick with excitement.
Years ago, we experienced an event that today leaves us asking, “Where were you when it happened?” It left us feeling exposed. Not just as a people but as individuals. We felt fearful and angry, sad and mistrustful, worried and uncertain … and heaven forbid, we experienced these emotions out in the open for the entire world to see. We learned that the events of any day could alter the course of the future. We learned that in a crisis, humanity pulls together. We learned the meaning of courage. We learned to look around us. We learned the value of a life. We learned what was important. We learned that vulnerability is a word filled with dichotomy. It is susceptible but also accessible.
Do I remember where I stood when the news broke? Yes I do. Do I remember what my children said to me as they entered my door yesterday afternoon? Not so much. Do I live this day for all that it can bring and all that I can be? Do I make others around me feel seen and heard? My spouse, my children, my friend with silent struggles, my neighbor with stories untold, the man on the street corner wordlessly crying out “My turn, my turn … See me, See me?”
We commemorate Memorial Day with picnics and camping trips to honor those fallen defending our freedom. We remember July 4th with bonfires and fireworks to honor the building of a nation and the sacrifice of founding fathers. We observe Labor Day with final boating trips and pool excursions to honor civil servants.
9/11 is a celebration of a new kind of awareness. Celebrate the many whose days were cut short by making the most of mine. Celebrate by being truly present in the lives of those around me. Celebrate by using hands and heart to notice and take note. Celebrate by being accessible to those who are susceptible. Celebrate by some random act of kindness. Celebrate by lifting another somewhere out in the world.
And above all else, remembering to make a difference with every day, every moment, every soul to the echo of:
“Keep that one … it is good!”