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April 9, 2010

From the Middle East/Africa Microcredit Summit in Kenya

I visited a slum in Nairobi today, where two million people inhabit a space of roughly two square miles. Tiny houses – too tiny, really, to even be called houses – are home to anywhere from eight to ten people. There is one latrine for every four hundred. Filth is everywhere, along with kindness and dignity and beautiful smiles.

What I have realized here is that the existence of such slums -- home to millions and millions of people all around the world – is a deep obscenity. People are not dogs and they should not live that way. And I have learned for myself what people in the slums themselves keep saying: that just because someone lives in a slum, that doesn't mean that they are stupid. Nor does it mean that they are not good people.


The most beautiful little children are everywhere in these slums, walking around radiating joy --- for they do not yet know where they are. And when they see such people as myself walk by, they say the phrase -- no they practically sing the phrase, waving joyfully as they do -- "How are you!? How are you!? How are you?!"

It's one of those things where you knew, but you didn't really know.

As I exited the Kibera slum – called a slum by the inhabitants themselves, by the way – the gentleman next to me and I discussed how lucky we were that we got to leave.

When I entered my high end Nairobi hotel room an hour later -- emotionally and physically exhausted as well as covered in dirt -- I threw myself on the luxurious mattress of a clean and well made bed, relishing the thought of a hot shower to follow. And then it hit me, like a ton of bricks.

The people I had been with all day in the Kibera slums would not be lying down now on a luxurious mattress, nor had they ever. They would not be taking a long hot shower, nor had they ever. They would not be eating a good hot meal tonight, nor had they ever.

And like others I know who have made these trips to the slums of Kenya, I wept.

I defy anyone to go through this experience and be the same person on the other side of it that they were before.

I know that I will not be. I pray to be better.

For ways you can help end poverty NOW, check out www.results.org and www.microcreditsummit.org

-- Marianne

Posted by mwblog at 6:19 AM

April 5, 2010

On My Way to the Middle East Regional Microcredit Conference in Nairobi, Kenya

I’m on a plane about an hour outside Nairobi, thinking about the Microcredit Conference and particularly delighted that 26 other women who came to the SISTER GIANT Conference are going as well. I didn’t know if any of them would, though I felt strongly that putting the invitation out there was the right thing to do. I know there were others – including people who heard about the trip to Kenya at my Tuesday night lectures in LA --  who would have come had they been able, and still others who were intrigued by the idea even though going on this trip wasn’t right for them right now.

I led metaphysical tours several years ago…to Egypt a few times, to Ireland, to Greece, even a metaphysical tour of Washington DC. But as I’ve been saying in my lectures over the last year or so, “The era of data collection is over.” It isn’t as interesting as it used to be to just go somewhere to consume…. even if what we’re consuming is spiritual information or even experience. The pulse of this moment is participation. It’s not enough any more to just learn or even to grow. It’s time to participate fully in the transformation of the world.

Obviously the issue of poverty is just one issue among many that demand our urgent attention. No matter what form our activism takes, it does something to you – to the subtle fibers of your being – when you stand up fully to advocate for others. I first learned that during the AIDS crisis in LA in the l980’s. There was no way to ignore all the pain and fear around us, but those who responded – with the LA Center for Living, with Project Angel Food and in other ways too– found our lives enriched and blessed for having done so.

The flow of activism begins to occur naturally when we allow ourselves to emotionally absorb the human suffering in our midst. 17,000 children die of hunger each day – every five seconds, a child starves to death somewhere on this earth. Take even a moment to truly consider 1) what it would feel like to die of hunger; 2) what it would feel like to watch your child die of hunger; 3) that so many children each day do die of hunger; and 4) there’s enough food to feed them if that’s what the governments and financial institutions of the world truly decided to do – and you couldn’t remain complacent even if you wanted to. We are moral beings at our core, and we yearn to do what we can to right the universe. It’s not enough anymore to just put “Be the change you want to see happen in the world” on the bottom of your emails and otherwise leave it at that.

So I am already blessed by this trip, just by being on the plane. By showing up. By making the choice to be here. And I am so looking forward to meeting others at the Conference --- four thousand people are here from all over the world --who have devoted themselves so utterly and completely to activities that lift the poor from poverty and get food to those who would otherwise starve.

Posted by mwblog at 7:37 PM

April 1, 2010

Open Letter to Sarah Palin

Dear Sarah Palin,

I don't share your politics but I do share your country. I am writing to you now as a fellow American and also as a woman who, like you, puts my spiritual journey above all else.

When your book first came out, I knew I had to read it because I felt judgment in my heart that was not in keeping with my religious convictions. I was tempted to think about you in prejudiced stereotypes, and I know that this doesn't jive with "Love one another" or "Judge not lest ye be judged." So I bought your book.

And I liked it. I admire you as a self-made woman who has achieved a lot in your life, and I can see how some unfair criticisms that have been leveled against you could have hurt terribly. I am sorry for that. As a woman from Texas, I recognized your refusal to "sit down and shut up" as the attitude of a kick-ass woman from a kick-ass state. Although I am pro-choice, I felt your spiritual process regarding coming to acceptance and obedience in relation to giving birth to a Down Syndrome child was both inspiring and profound.

When I read your descriptions of liberals in the book -- not just critical, but simply false -- my jaw did drop a couple of times, like I almost thought you must be joking... you couldn't really think that. But I knew my job in reading the book was to beware my own judgments, so I simply read on and tried to ignore your jibes.

I have defended you since reading the book, particularly when others would make fun of your comments about looking to God's Will to guide you. But something is happening now that is so critical to this country, with such genuinely significant repercussions, that I implore you to hear me -- not just as a fellow American, but as a sister who I know prays to the same God that I do: Words have power. Please modify your words.

In my lifetime, we have lost a President, a Civil Rights leader and a Presidential candidate -- all to gun violence. Another President was shot and survived the ordeal, while his press secretary was paralyzed for life. These are not left-right issues; they are not political correctness issues; they are human issues concerning life and death. I am not suggesting you would pick up a gun and shoot anyone; I am suggesting that there are other people who would, however, and in your position as a leading political figure you are stoking fires -- regardless of your intention -- that are simply too dangerous to be safely stoked.

This is not the stuff of media bias. It is the stuff of history -- in the United States and elsewhere. From Hitler's Germany to the arousal of genocidal fervor in Rwanda, there are more than enough examples of how a group psychosis can emerge within a nation. I beg you to join with me -- even though I am not your political ally -- in praying for blessing and protection on all our politicians and their families, and looking deeply within our own hearts for where violence lurks so we can cast it out.

I am speaking from genuine concern for our country -- a concern no more or less meaningful or legal or freedom-loving than your own. I have a pretty tough edge myself, and I don't mince words when it comes to politics. But no one needs to be "re-loading" now, and our political opponents are not "enemy territory." In a free society, we do not have to agree; in fact, that's the point of freedom. "Shoot with accuracy; aim high and remember it takes blood, sweat and tears to win" is a frightening statement, Sarah. It is not funny; it is threatening. There are some crazy people in this country on both sides of the political aisle, and saying such things could incite them to violence that is very real.

Please join with me in turning to a God of Love and not fear, that our country and our world -- and perhaps most importantly, our own hearts -- might be purified of hate. It is love and love alone that will heal our country and heal our world.


Posted by Marianne at 10:04 PM | Comments (0)