Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Foxhole Effect....Some Personal Thoughts

Two young men find themselves together in a foxhole, far from home and family, late at night. They are lost in the middle of a war zone and have come to believe this may be their last night on the planet. One is a black man from the projects of Detroit; the other, a young, well-heeled white man from Scottsdale, Arizona. They have nothing in common, nothing except the foxhole and the certainty that tonight they may die.

In the final moments of moonlight, as explosions rock the ground and smoke blocks out the light, a transformation takes place. Two men, from two very different worlds, somehow transcend the bonds of color and privilege and background to reach out to each other for comfort and brotherhood. As they share their common peril in that moment, all else is stripped away and they are naked in the truth of all we ever really possess.

One night I sat with Tom Dalessandri and Ben Taylor in Ben’s cramped FEMA trailer. Ben asked us why we did this work, why we would come so far to help strangers. I listened to Tom’s words first and was moved by his simple answers and the spirit that underpinned them. I don’t really know Tom, outside of Pearlington, but I knew we had made a connection and that I was impressed with his honesty, humour and integrity. I thought of all the volunteers I met, way back in the first frantic days, as we began our dance with Katrina.

We shared a common peril and in the very best way people can, we have come to love and admire each other. We pray that should we meet again, outside the foxhole, that was then - and still is - Pearlington, that we could keep that connection and hold onto the energy that binds us together. We wish to remain naked in the truth that we came to this beautiful world as beings of Spirit and when we connect at that level, there is something unconditionally sustaining that holds us up to the sun. We are authentic and who we really are, regardless of all the human things we’ve done of which we are not so proud as this time in Pearlington.

That is why I do this work: to find people who care less about what I own and where I live than who I am. People who have the courage to break their own hearts on purpose and to share a common peril with Perfect Strangers. People who give a damn and only stop briefly to consider all of the reasons they should not be there. People who look into each other’s eyes and know, then sit humbly before men and women like Ben and Sue Taylor and speak their truth.

There are so many with whom I have shared this, all over the world. In Pearlington, I am honored to have shared it with Tom from Colorado and all the others too numerous to mention. Pearlington is counting on us and needs us, now as much as ever. We must work as a team; to do otherwise makes us just the same as the rest of the world, many who have long forgotten the human face of tragedy on the Gulf. We work and worry, we beg and borrow, we bend and sometimes break. Then we gather up our own pieces and do it again.

Tom and I both told Ben Taylor that night the same thing in our own way. The gift Pearlington has given us far exceeds our humble efforts on their behalf and we are grateful for it from the bottom of our hearts.

"If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss.
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son! "

- Rudyard Kipling, "If"

Canada Jon


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