There are a few people in each of our lives that leave such a mark that our lives becomes defined by their presence in it. The moments we spend in their presence prepare us for the battles that still lay ahead and heal our wounds from the wars we have already fought. The love they show us isn't earned, it never could be, and yet these beautiful souls show us love in a way we are hard pressed to find anywhere else. With just a few kind words they can alter the course of a day, change our moods for weeks, and lift our eyes to the future that rest just over the horizon.
In the lives of those who work here at Alder's Ledge there is one such soul that we all cherish deeply. Her story is one that has touched us all in ways we could have never prepared ourselves for. Her actions, her words, and the way she looks at each new day are all a light that guides us. Because she has always been there for us in our times of need. She has always offered us comfort when we felt like giving up. And she never ask for anything in return.
Each of us at Alder's Ledge have come to a point over these past few months where we have felt like we wanted to quite and just walk away. For me personally it has been a war between ending what I started and pushing past old scars. A sense of guilt for the seemingly selfishness of it all only made things worse. Yet there she was... ready to start our next chapter, together. Ready to fight the next battle right by my side even as I tried to push everyone else away. And yet there she was, my little sister.
So we are all still here...
And we are getting back to work...
But we all owe this to one beautiful soul with one powerful scream.
The Heart Of A Screamer
"...and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people."
~The Holy Qur'an
Several years ago I had the good fortune of meeting a young girl who's story never seemed to match the light that still shown in her eyes. When our mutual friend introduced us she had told me that this young girl had the heart of a screamer. At the time I thought being a screamer meant being loud and relentless... both of which I may still be. Yet here was a young lady who had suffered throughout her childhood some of the worst offenses anyone could imagine. And she saw the act of screaming in a way that would redefine it for all of us.
Little sister may have grown up a Buddhist, like most people in her part of the world, yet the first thing she wanted me to know was her favorite verse from the Qur'an. I had asked her what "screaming" meant to her. That was all I had asked. And the answer was that quote from the Qur'an. She looked me in the eye and smiled as she quoted it. That smile that burns an impression on the soul itself with it's unique sincerity.
Maybe it's the lack of such sincerity in the world today that makes her heart for the whole of mankind so refreshing. Maybe it's the beauty in her eyes when she smiles while helping others that lights up the staff at Alder's Ledge. For me it's just the love that we see radiate from her that changed everything about how Alder's Ledge operated.
When we started we had a stern focus on the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide. As funny as that is to realize looking back, seeing as how we started with one Jew (me) and not a single Armenian on staff... Yet looking back it is clear to see that we had a very narrow mission statement, to say the least.
Then came our little sister...
All she had to do was introduce us to her story of how she was trafficked as a kid and we all changed how we screamed. Suddenly we started screaming about human trafficking because it had touched us personally. We wanted to partner with this amazing young woman who had already begun to change us in ways we hadn't even fully begun to realize. It's funny how that works when you meet someone like this... when they enter your life and start to change things you felt would never change. All she had to do was be the same wonderful woman she has always been. And in just doing that she was inspiring us all just by letting us see her gentle spirit... her love for others.
We started talking about other genocides more and more. What one of us didn't know another would chip in and help teach us all. And for the most part our educations, all we had read over the years, and all we had learned from each other seemed to be missing one thing... something that is vital to screaming...
A personal connection.
A relationship with the people we so often looked at the "victims" or the subject of the conversation. It was this part that our little sister helped us with all those years ago. And still does on a daily basis.
For me that lesson was made most evident by simply watching my beloved sister as she took it from just words and applied it in actions each day. I had always known that she took food, medicine, and other basic needs to street kids and prostitutes. What inspired me was knowing that she did so out of what little money she had. Here was a someone who had never had any money of her own all her life and was now able to earn some that she got to keep. But instead of doing what all the people her age do here where I live, she took that money sought to meet the needs of others before bothering with the things she might want for herself.
When you see that, when you have a bond to someone like that, it makes you look at your own life differently. It makes it hard to tell yourself that you can't live without that next cup of coffee from the chain store or that next phone upgrade. It makes it hard to justify eating out every night or buying yet more clothes that you won't wear much anyway. After all, I'd always had more than I could ever need or really justify wanting. So seeing her selflessness created yet more change in a lot of us at Alder's Ledge.
With just the forming of that relationship our sister we were all growing closer and ever more focused on what it meant to be a "screamer". That one addition to our team all those years ago had created a change that now defines Alder's Ledge. Our relationship with our baby sister has defined who we all are today and how we work as a team. For that we are all thankful... for she is a blessing to each of us each and every day.
What Is A Screamer...
So what is a screamer?
We have always defined a screamer as someone who witnesses or becomes aware of genocide and refuses to remain silent.
Sounds simple enough. All you have to do then is just get out there and raise hell till someone listens. Just go out there and make your voice heard as you try to spread awareness of genocide. And yet if it was that easy then it would be far less effective. Because in all reality, nobody is going to listen to you just because you won't stop talking. In our modern world there is always the ability to mute, block, ignore, or un-friend you. People are less likely to listen in our world because all there is anymore is just noise. And if all you are doing is screaming... all you are doing is creating yet more noise.
A screamer has to be able to make a connection between the genocide itself and the people he/she is trying to reach out to. The relationship between the crime and the witness is one that has to be made personal. It is one that has to be imprinted upon the heart of the witness for it to carry real weight in the daily life of those who are asked to bare witness to such a horrific crime. Otherwise the information given will elicit some sympathy right before it is forgotten and pushed aside.
A screamer has to be able to view the world beyond the confines of religion, race, or nationality. There is nothing more hindering to reaching out to all of humanity than a world view that only sees people in given groups. This part of screaming means that you may have to admit your own prejudices and work past those views. If you are not able to make a personal connection with others beyond your own given religion, race, or nationality for any reason... your desire to scream will always be limited and that limitation will always be evident to everyone around you. This limitation makes any screaming you might do seem partisan and bias. Which in the end will turn more people away from the information you are trying to spread.
A screamer must be able to stay committed to the act of screaming itself. Once you start to scream on behalf of any given cause you have to keep the fight up relentlessly. People who are watching you will notice if you start to jump from one cause to the next when things get hard or boring to you. There are countless people out there who will pick up on a "humanitarian cause" because it is the latest trend or a celebrity is preaching it at the time. If you want to scream you can't be seen as doing so because it's trendy. That alone is enough to make any information you are trying to get out there seem questionable. And it makes your sincere desire to help others seem fake in the eyes of those who watch you.
A screamer has to know when to engage and when to bow out of a fight. Tenacity is good to a certain extent. While a screamer must be relentless, you can't become insensitive to the audience you are trying to reach. If your wording something in such a way that it no longer engages the people you are talking to but rather offends them... that is a moment to bow out and wait try again later. Timing is an art in reaching out to others when it comes to such subjects as genocide. You won't touch their heart if you can't first get past the defenses your audience will always have erected. Their prejudices and world view has to be taken into account before engaging.
A screamer must have a network of others to help them, to hold them accountable, and to refresh their spirit in times of need. Whether you have other screamers to reach out to or just close friends, this is one of the most important parts of being a screamer. The people like our little sister here at Alder's Ledge make those rough patches easier and more survivable. We have watched countless others throw in the towel because they didn't have anyone else to help them... or refused help when they needed it most. The subjects we are screaming about take a toll on all of us. These subjects hurt emotionally and exhaust the soul. Thus, we all need the support of others to keep up this fight.
On A Personal Note...
All of us here at Alder's Ledge would like to close this post by thanking our little sister for showing us just what it means to scream.
Thank you dear sister for always being there when we needed your support, your love, and the blessing of your friendship. Thank you for always being willing to listen to our problems and never judging us even when we deserved it. Thank you for always showing us what loving others is supposed to be like. But most of all, thank you for letting us be there when you needed us most... that is a blessing that each of us will forever remember.