This I Believe

Judith - Ware, Massachusetts
Entered on November 2, 2006
Age Group: 30 - 50

I spent my twenties as an educator and an advocate of women and children outside of this country. In my thirties, I worked with victim/survivors of violent crime in the state of Vermont.

Of all the humbling gifts given in the going from the Maori women’s healing gatherings after a rape or murder, going to the aboriginal children of sex workers under the stars in the Ghost Inhabited Time going to the trafficked women of upper Burma and the foothills of the gods which seemed to have forgotten them all, I learned what it means to pick out of the seemingly innumerable injustices the exact events that we will call crimes—to name wrongs in those contexts had none of the shame I sometimes hear in the pejorative tone towards the word, “victim, for godsakes.”

Rather, I learned that act of naming harms moved individuals’ worlds to the assertion of a positive right to be free of them—raised us both from the chained bed of The Way Things Are to the commanding front of “I Am More Than This.”

The gifts of working with survivors of violence are potent and plentiful.

If I were to gather some of those powerful flowers together and make them into a tincture I could dispense, it would be a tincture called Possibility and it would be for all survivors of violence. Each drop says,

I believe

It is possible:

To grow a new heart. Like a womb that has carried a baby, it will secretly be bigger.

I believe

It is possible:

That the cement and stone that has become your body will crumble softly, the doors will open, the light and air quietly dancing through.

It is possible:

That though the lion is long gone, you can stand on the tongue in the mouth of the one that still lives in your head and say, “You can’t bite me anymore.”

It is possible

To laugh again, with the brand of humor that honors everything outrageous and absurd about our losses—like the woman in shelter surrounded by her worldly possessions encased in Hefty Bags who remarked, “At least I’ve finally got matching luggage.”

It is possible

though it is a bargain no one willingly strikes

To have wisdom where innocence once lived

It is possible

To accede to ethical leadership without losing your freedom

To taste the sour fruit of mistakes but to remain at the feast, knowing there’s still a place at the table for you

To hold up to the light the prism of an opposing viewpoint without feeling the press of moral vertigo against your person

And finally, I believe it is possible

To find gratitude, as I feel so often now—

so that I can say,

When our paths cross

Thank you for releasing my faults and accepting my gifts.

Thank you for letting me do the same with you.

These gifts from you are staying.

And for us, survivors among us, all of us

Let us keep going

Keep going