And Let It Begin With Me

 

Last Friday, we abducted my dad. Blindfolded him with a red bandana, threatening him within an inch of his life if he peeked.

We drove farther from the main roads, slowing down on the uneven patches. We drove through fields of scrubby bushes, berries pulling the branches to the ground.

In this rural scene, I thought of Paris – Woody Allen’s Paris. The one where the protagonist walked the streets at night, waiting for the car to whisk him back into the heart of the 1920s.

I only had to sit still in the back seat and watch the modern landscape melt into something out of a Steinbeck novel.

The Grapes of Wrath.

 

Along each side of the road, people plucked blueberries with tired hands and moved down the rows of bushes with dusty feet. Men gathered in circles and poured clear water and laughed with squinted eyes. Women carried baskets of berries on their heads, straight from the glossy pages of National Geographic.

“Did you see that?” my baby sister asked. She squirmed in her booster seat.

I squirmed in my seat.

Because something felt off.

Not thirty minutes before, we’d driven through a town known for its BMWs and developments with names like The Enclave and large rocks on the left hands of platinum-blonde soccer moms.

Surely we’d driven into some sort of time warp. Surely we’d entered another world.

Concrete houses painted light blue in the middle of the field. Sheets of tin roof rusting. Dirt under each step, not an inch of grass to be seen. Faces lined by the sun, eyes wary of strangers, feet bare and rough.

Clothes hanging from string stretched between houses, poles, shrubs. Shirts that looked faded, and pants that looked worn.

Just like their owners.

 

I’m always surprised when I unfold pages from a newspaper. Shocked at how this 21st century can still hold such injustice.

Like sex-trafficking.

And genocide.

And dictatorial leaders.

Empty bellies and dry throats.

But then I’m just as surprised when I unfold pages from my own heart. Shocked at how it can still hold traces of apathy, selfishness, and greed.

Sickened by the way it can still harbor anger and spurn kindness.

Saddened by the way it can still nurture envy and reject love.

And while I’m pointing fingers I can hear this hymn echoing in my head, sung long ago in the pew-lined church I grew up in:

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

 

On our way back home, we drive through the fields of berry bushes again, bellies full, shoes put back on after dangling our feet in the river.

The windows are down, and the sounds of deep vocals and piano and palms clapping rise as we slow down to let a few of these migrant workers cross the road. They are changed now, into plain dresses and button-up shirts that you and I would have called dated and passed onto the thrift store, into clothes straight from the line.

The makeshift church is full – I know even though I can’t see into the doors – and loud with hymns. Children huddle in groups and smile and look towards the strangers in the cars.

These people are poor and worn to the bone and so thin. But there is hope on every face.

And that hope sticks with me, as we drive back home.

Hope in that the hardships and injustices of the world will change.

Hope in that the change will first begin in me.

 

Are you hoping to change?