The heart-wrenching news of these disturbing times are, at least for me, becoming increasingly difficult to hear and watch on our flat screens. The constant bombardment of ugliness descending upon our world is downright depressing. How much more can we take of videos of men clothed in black, knife in hand, preparing to behead innocent hostages? It causes stomachs to churn when we see the streaming images of an NFL player slugging his now-wife in an elevator or when we read on the front page of the Boston Globe of three little children found dead in their home, apparently as the result of the actions of a deeply disturbed mother. How much more can we absorb of the irrational and continual shedding of blood in the Middle East and in Ukraine? It is all too much, just too damn much! Nevertheless, I think it important to remind ourselves that the vast majority of the people in our world really are good people who, more often than not, are striving to do the right thing.
“AM” and “PM” are my nicknames for two incredible people who are part of my spiritual community on Cape Cod. They moved here a few years ago for what they said was retirement, but has, in reality, been far from restful or entwined in inactivity. I suspect that from an energy-expending viewpoint, AM and PM might long once in awhile for the much more serene worlds of their teaching and business pasts!
Shortly after I met them, it was quite apparent that they were extremely passionate about a place called the Child Rescue Center in West Africa’s Sierra Leone. I kiddingly labeled them as zealots. The Child Rescue Center provides a home for orphaned and impoverished street children, some of whom have been deeply impacted by a horrific 10-year civil war in that part of the world. To put it mildly, AM and PM give their hearts to these kids. Traveling at their own expense, twice a year they make the long sojourn to Bo, Sierra Leone to volunteer their time and skills in support of Sierra Leone’s kids.
Over the years, the passion of PM and AM has gone viral. Many folks in my community are now infected with helping these kids as well. Tragically, however, a more insidious virus is now at work in West Africa. The devastating, life-taking Ebola virus is threatening millions of people. It has struck particularly hard in Sierra Leone, so much so that the government declared the nation to be locked down, with almost all daily activity put on an enforced hold.
Early last year, the director of the Rescue Center resigned and AM became the acting head of the organization. In late summer, AM and PM came back to the States for a hiatus to catch up with their “normal” life and fulfill some important family obligations. While home, the Ebola virus quickly metastasized. The number of those infected climbed and the death toll rose rapidly. Most, sane volunteers to any West African country would not dream of returning to those countries until the Ebola outbreak is contained. While AM and PM are quite sane, they are also deeply committed to their kids. Despite the fact that the cost of airfare to Sierra Leone has sky-rocketed AND that their worried spiritual leader (me!) asked (begged!) them to wait until the virus abated, first AM returned to Bo to resume his interim leadership of the Center and, yesterday morning, PM texted me from the Bo airport that she had arrived safely. Together, they continue to compassionately care for and love the children living in lockdown at the Child Rescue Center in that beleaguered and suffering country.
AM and PM’s passion, commitment and compassion blow me away. They could have remained safe and sound, living in their beautiful home overlooking an idyllic Cape Cod pond, but the needs of the kids at the Rescue Center and AM and PM’s love for the people of Sierra Leone trumped any concern for their own safety. They returned because, as AM told me, that’s what “God wanted them to do.” AM and PM don’t mess with or attempt to negotiate their way out of what they believe to be their Eternal One’s marching orders to love and serve the kids of Bo, Ebola virus or no Ebola virus!
Yep. We can get depressed very quickly if we narrow our vision to view only the bad or hate-filled actions of some people in our troubled and disturbing world. As for me, I refuse to allow the hate-filled actions of the few to push to the sidelines the heart-inspiring actions of the many. I refuse to allow evil and hate to shroud my soul in darkness. I am in awe of the courage, commitment and love of AM and PM. They embody the words of the ancient poet who once said, “Weeping may linger into the night, but joy comes with dawn.”
AM and PM have administered a healthy dose of hope and joy to many of us on old Cape Cod in both the “A.M.” and in the “P.M.” I hope that the thought of them will give you a little of both as well. God knows we all need it!
John E. Holt, Cotuit, Massachusetts