She spoke about how she had been having trouble sleeping at night at the thoughts of what these Children have lived and had to endure, as well as their families. Children literally forced to shoot their own parents with guns almost as big as them, given to them by evil men of tyranny that have caused death and despair for the sake of profit, status and greed.
I was vaguely familiar with the situation, but all I really knew was there were issues with extreme poverty, deplorable living conditions, and modern day slavery. I had learned much of the happenings in Africa and it’s nearby region from the movie “Blood Diamond” and a special I’d seen on 60 Minutes telling a tale of people being murdered in there own homes and villages due to their religious heritage, and for no other reason. She went on to talk of informing others of the situation, and bringing attention on this modern day travesty happening in lands far away from the rat race that I was in the middle of living.
I was completely interested in what she had to talk about, and moved by her passion for these people and their culture. She had always fascinated me with her train of thought… she was so adamant about making a difference in the world, but never seemed to care much for making a difference in the life of one single individual. Having her speak on such a grand platform truly warmed me to know that even the coldest of people can have a bleeding heart of flames for those who cannot help themselves. In short… she gave me hope in mankind, despite all of our short comings. I had realized that even the hardest of people have a soft-spot for our fellow man, despite what they may project in their everyday lives.
I was literally in the middle of a pizza delivery, on my phone, while looking for an address, so I couldn’t talk long. I wanted to discuss the matter further, but I failed to connect with her again to discuss the issue at hand. I was intrigued enough by what little she had told me, to dive deeper into the matter, and educate myself. So… basically, she succeeded in what I thought to be her intent. She raised the awareness in me, that I believe she was seeking.
That’s how I found out about “InvisibleChildren.com” and this little event they were putting on around the United States in Select cities. The one nearest to us being “Big City University”. The event was appealing to me immediately, the concept was fascinating and unique, as well as profound.
The name of this event… was “Displace Me“.
Should you choose to participate, you would be “Displacing” yourself by going to “Big City University” for one night, with nothing more than a few cardboard boxes, and some bottled water… and a pack of Saltine Crackers. You would literally re-enact what it would be like when a rebel army was rumored to be headed to your village and you were warned by your government to migrate to a displacement camp so that you could be protected by your governments army. You would have had to pack up only what you could carry, and make your way on foot to a camp full of thousands of others to live in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions with little or no food and water rations.
how cool is that???!
Those in Africa and Uganda actually carry hand-crafted mats which they use to sleep on, but the cardboard was adequate for the event idea. We were to construct a “Cardboard home” to sleep in for the evening. There were a series of activities used to mock the culture and happenings in the camps, as well as informational videos and speakers that discussed in detail what it means to those in need to have us all gathered together like we were in support of resolving the political, medical and social issues of the region.
I had considered going to the event, but it wasn’t until I found,
my home boy,
the gangsterest of gangsters!
My man, “Big D”,
to come with me as it is something that you don’t want to go in alone! Realizing that there wasn’t much premise for our going considering we weren’t very knowledgeable of the political details involved with the relations on the U.S. and Uganda. I was honestly hoping to become more informed from the event, under the impression that the event itself was intended to education it’s patrons more on the issues… while I was slightly reluctant to go with my limited knowledge base, I was moved by the idea of making a contribution, just as the young woman who spoke of the issues of Uganda to me a few weeks before.
We arrived to the University Campus where the event venue was arranged to take place, and stopped at the nearest gas station to purchase our “1-liter bottle of water” that was required to bring… when we saw a Silver VW Beetle pull up in front of the door, with a giant Invisible Children slogan “Every War Has An End.” hanging off the back hatch. As I walked in after them, I noticed they too were sporting the white and red shirt with an “X”, obviously there for the same event…
This is the part that made me realize…
That I deserved to be there just as much as any of these other younger “college folks”…
I was feeling as if I was an impostor, trying to get involved in something that I knew so little about. I was initially intimidated by the entire thing, being “the older guy” and all. Plus only within the year had I started to learn about these 3rd world atrocities… But suddenly, I realized just how alike I actually was with many of them.
I was a bit disappointed with some of the crowd and there lack of focus, purpose and direction for their support on the issues at hand…
Playing the latest movies they downloaded from Limewire on their iPod’s while sleeping in their heated sleeping bags and eating chocolate bars while under the cardboard roof of their Cardboard Palaces…
It somewhat takes away from the others who want to have the full experience provided to them…
However, in choosing to look hard at college students that are giving up their weekend to go to such an event in support of such an severe Humanitarian issue…
they are still okay, in my book.
While in line at the gas station, the folks from the Silver Beetle in front of me were asked by the India Native gas station cashier:
“What are all the shirts with Red X’s about?”
The young men and women quickly answered:
“It’s in support of Uganda and it’s children.”
“It’s for ‘Displace Me‘!”
Considering that woman had probably never heard of the event, or perhaps never even hearing about the human rights issues and crisis’s of Uganda and the African Region… she was not satisfied with the answer, and continued to ask:
“But what is it for? Why is there an event?”
The college kids all kind of looked at each other at once after finishing all their transactions, and repeated themselves on the way out of the door, not offering any real explanation to the cashier’s very valid question.
Being next in line, and having a few moments to consider what a “real” answer to her questions would sound like, I began my monologue about what “Displace Me” was all about:
“In Uganda, rebel armies are invading the villages and pillaging and plundering them, forcing their children to do awful things like slavery or even worse, joining their rebel armies in order to live. They are even sometimes forced to kill their own families! The government of Uganda has set up camps and are forcing the villages to evacuate with only what they are able to carry in order to protect them and prevent the rebel armies from acquiring more ‘child soldiers’. This event called ‘Displace Me‘ is to re-created what it must be like for these village people and is intended to raise awareness and promote support for resolving the issues of Uganda.”
By the time I had half of all that out of my mouth, we had already finished my transaction, and the line behind me had grown to over 8 people, who were in a hurry… and I was still standing there talking to the side of the register counter, finishing my schpeel.
The people in line had questions and requests to ask of the woman, and she had a job to do, so I quickly realized I had probably over-explained the answer to her question, but I wanted to be thorough.
I’m ALWAYS thorough
Upon moving out of the way for the others to finish their business, I simply said to her:
“If you really want to find out more, check out ‘InvisibleChildren.com‘.”
and I left….
I felt…. well…
I felt good about myself, and what had just happened. In light of all the “self-improvement” type stuff I’ve been growing into, The Law of Attraction, Karma, Quantum Physics, all of it…
I felt like that little encounter was meant to happen, and meant for me to experience.
From that point on, I felt like I actually DID belong at the event rather than trying to convince myself of it… I FELT it.
… And what a difference it made….
The night went on, and the activities were fun, but a bit uncomfortable for most… there was a lot of interaction required between unfamiliar parties, and all those that were there seemed to be very “Clique-y” and isolated. No one really seemed very interested in making new friends or acquaintances, it was more like “I hope I know most of the people here” type of mentality, rather than, “Let’s make friends!”. The purpose of the event wasn’t to socialize however, but I had hoped that it would become a bi-product.
My dude Big D and I were pretty worn out from all the stuff we had been through earlier that day and during the week, so we weren’t exactly “on” in a social sense, yet he and I tossed a few of Frisbee’s and Discs out in the field between event activities, and later in the evening, we found our way into a “free-for-all” soccer game that most of us played barefoot. It was some of the most fun I’d had in a VERY long time, haha. It showed me how much skill I don’t have, and how much I do. While I have to admit… it was a bit strange to be the “old man with the crazy cuts”, I had a blast and wish that I could get involved with more activities of the nature.
It really makes me want to go to college again… A University even… tryout for teams and all that. Who knows… I could become the oldest drafted NFL running back!
The evening ended with 21 Minutes of Silence for those lost in the midst of the chaos that which Uganda was surviving through… it truly touched me to see us all form a giant circle with our hands linked together and unite for such a great cause… I felt like I was part of something… like I could make a difference… like I already had.
The cardboard hut that we constructed had fallen apart from its original design… the evening dew weakened the large box that was making up the primary walls and literally collapsed upon itself from its own weight. The fact that we only had one roll of Duct Tape did NOT help matters out at all… The first few hours of the event were spent constructing the cardboard hut and decorating it as well. At the last minute I had read the “what to bring” section on the “Displace Me” event site and threw my old markers from the Art School I had attended 3 years earlier into my back pack. While the decorative markings were not intended to be located in the places that they ended up being on our “re-designed cardboard duplex”, the last box I had left in my car provided us with the interior support the ceiling needed and we ended up coming out better than we had started with a groovy little duplex hut. While we were tired and desperate, and the walls were still a little rickety, we managed to get a good nights sleep despite everything gone wrong.
During the day, I had been taking in my environment, and listening to the conversations of others. I was hearing these younger voices speak so mature and plainly about their futures.
Many were going to far off places…
and experiencing the BEST experiences and travel activities that education could offer
Some were just trying to get the MOST out of Mommy and Daddy’s dime…
Some were on full scholarships, some were working towards receiving grants,
Some were joining the Peace Corps,
Some were going to work in their field soon…
It was then that it hit me… there I was, standing in a field full of the future leaders of America… I was listening and realizing that part of the reason why I left so isolated and detached from these people, was because they were on a far different “frequency” than I.
It was the next morning that I finally got the motivation to begin writing my letter to congress. There were booths set up to send in letters to our congressmen to let them know that we do NOT want to cut the aid being supplied by our country for the humanitarian efforts of sustaining the lives of those Displaced. Without our aid, many will starve and die of thirst, and to me, and many many others, the loss of life in such a manner when we could be doing something to help… to put it plainly…
It’s just NOT acceptable.
So I once again voiced my opinion about the matters of the world to the offices of the Congressperson and Senator in my registered voting district.
I hand wrote my letter, to let him know that even a guy like myself, who has never before found the means to use his voice to sway the opinions of my elected political leaders, found it on this day.
And my voice said, “No! Do NOT stop giving our help! I want CHANGE, I want to HELP these people live real lives and have a chance to LOVE LIFE as I do… and BE HAPPY…”
There is hope for all of us…
It’s not about Economics…
IT’S ABOUT HUMAN BEINGS!