Here I am.
Early morning. Staring into the rivulets of rain softly tracing rivers down the airport window. My girls will be waking up soon, getting ready for another day of school. If our lives were drops of water, I know the path they’d be choosing in their chase down the window. Down to the minute, I know the routine: Backpacks, books, and don’t forget – brush your teeth. It feels strange not to be there with them.
And yet, here I am. A few hours later and I’m stepping off two early morning flights into a bustling international terminal just as my girls settle into their day. Beijing, Bangkok, Bangalore, Brussels… passengers mill around, each hoping to get somewhere new without too many hiccups or delays. We are like thousands of drops of water starting at the same point, but who knows where our heads will hit the pillow tonight? What path will we take?
I love people watching in international terminals. In this moment we are all standing on the same ground and yet in the course of a few hours, we’ll be flung to all corners of this spinning, dizzying globe. It’s magical and mystifying, if you stop to really think about it. Spaces like this remind me of how connected we all really are… individuals, yes. But individual drops in a mighty river or an endless ocean.
A plane for Tokyo is soon to take off, and the sound of Japanese filling the hall reminds me of delicate wind chimes. I walk by a gate boarding for Shanghai. The sharp sounds of Mandarin wrap me in something warm and familiar; comforting, even. I keep walking, watching a woman in a long sari patiently follow after a little girl with thick dark curls and wide saucer eyes as dark and deep as pools of midnight who is dancing circles around her, burning off energy before settling into seat 34C.
Watching the little girl, one of my own childhood memories suddenly washes over me… I’m lying on my stomach on the living room floor, a globe in front of me. Wiling away a long and hot summer afternoon with a simple game I devised. I spin the globe and let my index finger slow its maddening speed to a stop. I’d imagine what life might be like in Peru or Madagascar or wherever my finger fell when the spinning paused. Did little girls over there stare at globes and wonder about life in my small Texas town? There they are and here I am… so far away and yet so much the same.
If all goes well, 30 hours is enough time to transport me from my bedroom in Texas to a pillow in Bangkok. (I wrote this on the plane, but I’m posting it on a layover in Hong Kong.) Two days from now, I should be unwinding in a hotel that aims to attract tourists to a Bangladeshi beach. But it’s not the beach that’s drawing me in. Last year, 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled their makeshift homes in camps where they’d been forced to live in Myanmar and crossed a border into Bangladesh. There they live in even harder conditions, but without anyone threatening to kill them. 700,000 drops of water who fled their homes with what they could carry and crossed a swollen river hoping to find safety. 700,000 drops of water just like me who don’t have the luxury of hopping on a plane and seeing where the spinning globe will pause for them.
Instead, it’s come to a grinding halt… in a temporary camp that may well become a permanent home, fleeing from a country where they aren’t recognized to a country where they aren’t wanted. Limbo. Purgatory. Displaced. There are many mothers, just like me, among them. Women I will meet in just a couple days. Mothers who watch their little girls with wide-pools-of-moonlight-eyes and would, I know, trade their very life for the chance to change the course of their child’s life… to change the path their precious drop of water follows down the window. Though I haven’t met them yet, I know enough about mothers to know this… They would give anything for their children to have the life my girls know. They would give anything for a plane to take them away to backpacks and books and “don’t forget to brush your teeth before school.”
Frankly, I’m not entirely sure why I’m going. I can’t “do” anything or solve anything. I’m scared about what shape my heart may be in on the other side of this trip. If we’re all just drops of water, why did I get the crystal-clear stream and they got the gutter? I’m going with much uncertainty and no small amount of angst. All I can really say is “Here I am.” I have no idea where this journey will take me. But I’m intending to surrender to the process like one of those drops of water I watched course down the airport window 2,624 miles ago. I want to listen and I want to learn and I want to lean in and say, “Here I am.”
Do you want to go along?