When I was a young girl, I would lie on my stomach on sun-warmed grass covering the hills of Southern Wisconsin and absorb stories. I was shy and preferred to run away from the ordinary chaos of our family’s old farmhouse into the ancient rolling fields. The books I tucked under my arm opened worlds that were not always fairy tales or the forests of Narnia. I was also drawn to read stories telling of Native American genocide and the long Trail of Tears, Anne Frank’s diaries in besieged Amsterdam, and Bridge to Terabithia, about a young boy whose best friend dies.
As long as I can remember, I have always wanted to “see” the truths of the human experience, even if it meant terrible pain. But the burning questions that would carry me to the last page were “What now?” “What is the way forward?” I would hold these questions as I wept into the folds of the earth. I wandered the land surrounding our weathered barn, and I was comforted and held by the language of the swaying prairie grasses, the leaf whispers, and the gurgle of the creek. As I have grown older, my knowledge of the world’s suffering has grown bigger than my child’s imagination could ever hold. I now know, for example, that millions of people, especially girls, are born and die, beaten down in spirit and body, never knowing that they could dream. I wonder more urgently: “How can we ever heal?”
In the process of creating this issue, some of the secrets have been revealed to us. We must talk to and heed the calls of those who have lived through the eye of the storm of pain and are reaching out to the other side. Those who have lived through genocide and mass rape are the ones working the hardest to prevent it from happening in their country again. It is the people surrounded with AIDS orphans every day—children crying, laughing, and demanding dignity—who are fighting with their lives to raise them. Those whose best friends sold their bodies to buy textbooks are now on the front lines campaigning fiercely for a girl’s right to education. The indigenous grandmothers whose sacred plant life is dying and their people all but disappeared...they believe the Earth can heal, and that She is telling us how.
We might fear that paying attention to the grief will bow us down and break us. But too many survivors prove to us that our spirits are strong, and the grieving is necessary for the great healing to arrive. As world-renowned medical intuitive Caroline Myss says, if we are truly conscious people, then we must go out into the world and make a difference in “the dark corners.” And African spiritualist Sobonfu Somé counsels us to let the grief cleanse us “like the ocean waves.”
“The tsunami was like a lighting rod to our hearts primarily because we were able to see the pain. ”
Many of us ached before our television sets. The result was an unprecedented outpouring of support and compassion. We saw that even by giving a little, we had power to help the healing. Although there are more urgent tidal waves crashing around us now—AIDS, genocide, toxins— unlike earthquakes, they are preventable. We know that if we turn our gaze there...yes, we will feel pain. At times interviews and research have left our editorial team sobbing in front of our computer screens.
But we are always lifting our heads, so proud to tell these stories of inspiration so the world can see.
Once we start to see the healing occurring all around us, we naturally rise. The grief and courage we witness becomes a spiritual tonic, the winds of possibility, contagious.