Saturday, October 20, 2012

Shot@Life Uganda Trip Log: October 19 Heart breaking

Five days to go. 

I’m waiting in an airport for a work trip flight at too-damn-early-o’clock in the morning and I’m a little on the edge emotionally. Yesterday, my seven-year-old brought home a book she picked out in the school library about a homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father. It described how they manage it, how they’re not the only ones who do it, and the boy’s feelings about it. My heart breaks as I sit at my gate and imagine it. I wonder what kind of mess I’ll be in Africa next week if I’m sad about a picture book right now.

The job I'm doing today is flying out to speak at a fundraiser to ask an audience to donate to RESULTS, the anti-poverty advocacy organization I work for. I won’t have any trouble speaking tonight about why I am an advocate. Here’s a section of my remarks for tonight when I describe some of the new-motherhood reflections that led me to seek out activism for child survival:

In quiet moments, holding my baby girl just as she dropped off to sleep, I would feel peace, but also that nagging worry…will I be able to give her what she needs? Can I nurse her through this fever? Is she getting enough to eat? Now, in my case, these were silly fears because I happened to have good health insurance, good doctors in great hospitals, and plenty for her nutrition. But what if those answers were no? What if we didn’t have clean water? What if the nearest hospital was a 2-day walk..or more? What if I lived in real fear of measles or malaria claiming her life? When ½ of the world lives on $2 a day or less, these are the realities many parents face.”

My heart was breaking at that time of my life, too. Thank goodness I found RESULTS and Shot@Life to give me a way to help mothers and fathers struggling to save their children. Because both of these organizations celebrate the good we’re able to achieve and don’t dwell on the bad. In fact, Shot@Life is a whole campaign based on the joy of kids reaching life milestones: first tooth, first steps, first smiles. Here’s a great video about it that will show you what I mean. 

I think it’s important for us as humans to be touched and experience some of the negative empathetic thoughts. The tears can be an inspiration or a spark to take a first step. Yet they can’t sustain us for years of strength needed to persistently advocate for a cause over the long term. I’m hoping that this trip to Uganda can reconnect me with seeing the need with fresh eyes, but also show me the joy of lives being saved. I’m ready to be both torn down and filled up on this trip and grateful I’ll be doing it with some of my fellow Shot@Life champions I’ve come to respect and trust…and like very much, by the way!...over the past year. Shot@Life champion Holly Palivka put it very well one day when I was having a crappy day. She said, “We are not only champions for Shot@Life, but we have become champions for each other.” She’s totally right and it’s why I’m glad my first trip to Africa is with friends and fellow advocates. Over the next year – as we tell whatever stories we gather to other activists, the media, and members of Congress – we are going to need each other’s support.

Here’s a thought to reflect on. You need your heart to break to be a donor. You need to be able to put it back together to be an activist.

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