"How can they meet us face to face till we have faces?”
― C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces
Normally I wouldn’t be overly attentive to news of an uprising in Burkina Faso. And, while I shouldn’t admit it, the concern about the spread of ebola wouldn’t have mattered much until it reached as close as Dallas; that is until I realized that Burkina Faso is near the heart of the outbreak in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
That’s the way it is, you know? We don’t care a whole lot about anything until it has a face. For example, we understand the horrors of cancer once it has a face. By that, I mean, someone we personally know gets THE diagnosis. For me the first time cancer really had a face was my mother-in-law, Betty. It took her life at 49.
Why am I concerned about disease and political uprising in Burkina Faso? Because it has a face for me now. For several years, I have “supported” a little girl there. We send a little money to her each month and on special occasions through a wonderful organization called “Compassion” www.compassion.com.
She is a beautiful little girl named Maimouna. She is just a bit older than our oldest grandchild Karlee. In her last letter to me she drew pictures of her favorite things: her friend, a doll and a ball. Just a few days ago I put a letter in the mail to her. It included a picture that Karlee drew for her. I hope she gets it. The parliament building of her town is burning to the ground; today.
Several years ago I became involved with a group called the International Arts Movement based in New York City, and had the privilege of serving on their board of directors. The movement was founded by an artist named Mako Fujimura. Mako and IAM helped me with a language for a dilemma in our culture that was troubling to me. Mako had an epiphany of sorts following the events of 9/11, which impacted his community in NYC directly. He made a plea for artists and other culture-shapers to “re-humanize” the world. One way to look at what that means is for us to really see real faces.
For me, for today, when I heard Burkina Faso in the news, I immediately saw the face of my little friend Maimouna. My heart breaks for her and her family and the on-going de-humanization that comes with disease, and strife, and so; in Burkina Faso and in Oklahoma City.