My experience of joy and celebration at this time of year is always colored by the fact that my dear mother passed away at Christmas time. Even though it was over 40 years ago, I can still feel a twinge of sadness. I don’t mind.
This is also a time to evaluate the way we lived through the past year and to create a vision with resolutions for the new year. Our vision and resolutions for the new year indicate our estimation of the greatness or smallness of our spirit
This post is inspired by a call I received to work with a teenager with an extreme anger problem. Accepting this challenging new client made me consider how to communicate an appreciation of our spirit and of our good fortune. As I was wondering how I would work with this teenager three ideas came to mind.
One was to show her the website, Ashes and Snow. I figured this extraordinary photographic presention of soaring human spirit would open up horizons of contemplation and possibility for a young person in the thick of school peer pressure and fearful parental criticisms and control. I hoped it would give her a greater vision of what life can be beyond the pettiness of her current situation
Secondly, I had decided I would talk to her about respecting and channelling her anger, not try to fix it as if it were a problem. I would tell her about Florence Nightingale, honored as “The Lady With the Lamp” for her tireless nursing of British soldiers during the Crimean War, bringing female nursing into field hospitals for the first time.
I would tell this teenager that when asked how she was able to continue her work under horrible circumstances and in the face of chauvinist bias, Florence replied, “Rage!” I hoped this example would give her a way to honor her strong spirit that was revealing itself in the expression of anger. I would suggest she consider productive ways in which she could harness this wonderful energy to benefit herself and others as did Florence.
Thirdly, I would read the story of Nasreen Baig to her from Greg Mortenson’s new book, “Stones into Schools”. To me, Nasreen is an example of the greatness of the human heart and spirit to which we can all aspire. She was born in a remote area of Pakistan where the typical destiny of a girl is an uneducated life of hard labor as a subservient wife.
As a child, Nasreen had the rare opportunity to go to school and she excelled. Her dream was to become a maternal health care provider in this area with the world’s highest infant/mother mortality rate in child birth. She persisted in her studies even when she had to leave school at the death of her mother to care for her blind father. She persisted, studying late into the evening after her chores, in spite of her step-mother’s harassment, “Women should work instead of reading books. Books will poison your mind and you will be worthless as a wife and mother.”
Nasreen’s studies were fruitful and she won a scholarship from Mortensen’s Central Asia Institute to cover her advanced studies to become a rural medical assistant. But by this time she had been betrothed to a man, and her new mother-in-law got the village council of elders to deny her the right to go to school.
Nasreen spent the next ten year’s working 12- 16 hour days doing the work of a wife in this society – herding goats, hauling water and firewood, tilling fields, and serving her husband and his family. She gave birth to 3 babies and had 2 miscarriages, all without a maternal health care worker
Despite living this way for ten years, she made time in the evening to seek out and help the sick, elderly and dying in her community. She says, “The lamp in my life refused to be snuffed out. God never let the kerosene of hope run dry.”
Finally, the leadership of the council changed and Nasreen was allowed to complete her education. She left her village to study in the city, and she did so well she decided to continue her education to become a full OB-GYN nurse. When she finishes her studies she intends to take her family to the remote Wakkan region to provide medical care that is currently virtually non-existent.
When asked about the great obstacles and unfairness she had to endure before she could resume her studies to achieve her dream, Nasreen, free of bitterness, says, “God taught me the lesson of patience while giving me the tools to truly understand what it means to live in poverty. I do not regret the wait.”
May our lamps of Hope be ever full.
May we all prosper with enhanced compassion and wisdom! Let’s make a difference together. Good luck.
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