Sunday, January 28, 2018

A different kind of risk

I've never been much of a risk taker. My father was a military officer, and I grew up believing in following the rules. I've actually done that most of my life, with a few exceptions that I won't go into here.

I've done a fair bit of traveling in the last 15 years. I used to think it was risky to get on an airplane, but I found my fear diminishing as I flew more. My husband Art and I flew to Washington DC on 9/21/01, just a few days after planes were ungrounded after 9/11. It was very, very quiet. Even the subways. Even the monuments. There were no lines. We were careful, but we didn't feel like we were taking risks. It was probably one of the safest times to be in the nation's capital.

In 2005 we went to Vietnam on a journey of reconciliation and healing for Art. We visited numerous places that were quite dangerous 45 years ago: My Lai, the Cu Chi tunnels, Hanoi. But I felt entirely safe. Miserably hot and sweaty, but safe.

Four years ago, in 2013, we went to Kenya. I remember being raised on "darkest Africa", but what I found there was friendly people, beautiful countryside, fabulous animals and some of the finest customer service I've ever experienced. The tented camps were anything but primitive; we felt like honored guests.

In the summer of 2016 I went to Greece, to volunteer in a refugee camp. I returned three times over the next 15 months. For about three months altogether. I spent my days - and many evenings - in what had been an abandoned chemical factory, converted to small rooms housing families, mostly from Afghanistan and mostly Muslim. I walked alone through that camp many times and felt not the slightest fear, whether in daylight or darkness. In that culture, older people are honored. Some of the residents called me Grandmother. With respect.

I got comments from friends on all these trips.

In 2001: "Oh, my God! You are so brave to fly so soon after 9/11. And to Washington!"
In 2005: "Wasn't it scary going to all those places where we were fighting? Did the people look at you with hate?"
In 2013: "Isn't it dangerous in Africa? I'd be afraid of a terrorist attack."
In 2016: "All those refugees! Weren't you afraid there would be someone from ISIS at the camp?"

Nope. I wasn't afraid. It didn't feel like I was taking a risk. Like I said, I've never been much of a risk taker.

Then, this week, I had a conversation with my sister Alyx. She commented that my life is very interesting now, that I'm not afraid to take a risk. I said I didn't feel like I was. She said, "You have a risky heart."

I had never heard that before.

"You go these places and connect with people there. You listen to people tell their stories. When you come home you keep in touch with them on Facebook. Sometimes they keep telling you their stories. You talk about your experiences to groups of people."

I thought, well, yeah.

Then Alyx told me about a friend of hers, a nurse, who'd recently read about the Syrian conflict and the refugee crisis. The friend said it had changed how she looks at life. I said, "Tell your friend I will talk to her about the refugees any time, anywhere."

And Alyx said, "See? There's your risky heart again."

So I guess I do take risks. But what's the alternative? Fly home on my American passport and remember from a safe distance? Delete the pictures from my phone? Talk about the weather to refugees waiting in hopes of getting asylum somewhere? Pass up opportunities to share my experiences with friends here at home?


Me and my risky heart.


Olga said...

And the world would be a better place with more risky hearts! Thank you for all you do because your action elevate humanity for us all.

Terra said...

Risky heart is a great condition.

Sally Wessely said...

Yes, you are a risk taker, but more than that, you are a connector. You connect your heart to others, and you connect others to each other. You are an adventurer. You aren’t willing to sit and let life pass you by. My life has been greatly enriched by knowing you.

1NurseRatched said...

I say a risky heart is the best of all hearts.

Linda Reeder said...

Risky is rushing in where angels fear to tread. You don't do that. You study and you plan and you adapt. Therefore it doesn't feel risky to you.

Starting Over, Accepting Changes - Maybe said...

You may have a risky heart but it is a big heart that chooses love for humanity above all.

DJan said...

I remember traveling to Vietnam and the incredibly welcoming feeling I had from everybody. There was no hate, and it was one of the most beautiful places I'd ever seen. You are definitely growing and changing as you age, and I think your sister nailed it. :-)

Arkansas Patti said...

Thank goodness for people like you with risky hearts. You give those of us with timid hearts hope that good will be done around the globe.

Cynthia, Amsterdamned. said...

plus it's more fun to do stuff :-D

Dee said...

Dear Linda, I so agree with your sister--you do have a risky heart. You also have a deeply compassionate one. All of us are blessed by your willingness to explore new experiences. Thank you for sharing! Peace.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

You are living life on your terms in a good healthy way. There is risk in everything we do even eating. Thank you for reminding us that risks are what make it all worth it. I think you are a confident petson whom people trust. You give of yourself to better each day. Thanks for that.