I saw the face of bravery today. She walked across the street on all fours, caring nothing for the condemnation that any passerby might throw at her. She was dressed, modestly, and carried the demeanor of a debutante being escorted to prison for crimes that she could neither confirm nor deny she committed. Flip flops on her hands and shoes secured around her knees.
She didn’t notice me, that I know of. I walk abruptly and with purpose, weaving between people and cars. Hiding behind my sunglasses. Because I just can’t handle the stares most days.
But she can.
Sometimes I get messages from people. About the book. Or my blog. Or Facebook updates. Telling me that I inspire them. To be brave. To face the world. To do something meaningful with their lives. And most days all I can think is… show me truly, something good, because the reality is, it feels like nothing.
I’m thankful for the people who listen. Who take to heart the dreams of the world presented in my attempts at storytelling. But I, myself, add up to nothing.
Nothing compared to people who fight with purpose daily. People whose reason for living is to live.
Most days my biggest problem is deciding whether or not I will leave the apartment. This requires not only getting out of bed, but also the adoption of real clothing, and the strength to face a sea of people who see nothing beyond my skin and the change in my pocket.
But how is that fierce?
So I go a few days without showering when I’m in the field. I eat weird food sometimes. I carry heavy camera gear. I get sick. I cry.
How is that overcoming suffering in the face of someone who lives it every day? What of the woman in Kisumu who begged me to help her because her husband is a drunk and she can’t manage a farm and a houseful of children on her own.
But she does.
I am reminded of a TED talk I watched some time ago by National Geographic photographer, Annie Griffiths, called “Help a Woman. Help the Planet”.
“I was about to begin the journey of my life in understanding how extraordinary women are.” Griffiths said. “And how even when we view them as victims they are in fact heroes and survivors.”
And I have to wonder how often I peg myself as a victim of some unknown and rather unhorrifying life experience, instead of being an megaphone for a real hero’s story to be told through. Heroes who walk on all fours with their head held high.