‘My grandmother was also very fond of the birds. She was a saint, this woman – when she walked into her garden and held out her arms, the birds would fly down from the trees to perch on her hands……I thought everyone’s grandmother could do this trick. But it was because she truly loved them. I know that now. She said the reason we were put here on Earth was to admire the beauty which God created.’
I received my first assignment for school this year- a reading of a short story by Ben Fountain. The character’s (Alberto’s) words about his angelic grandmother related to my life in this moment more deeply than I expected. Three years ago, I moved to Nevada to spend time with my ailing grandmother. Stage 3 Leukemia infected her blood and I was a 15 year old who thought she knew everything about the world. My grandma was a saint, as was Alberto’s. She never had a bad word to say about anyone. She was the stereotypical grandmother- she baked the worlds best chocolate chip cookies, collected teddy bears, and spoiled her children and grandchildren with the most pure love. When she was feeling down and sore from her chemo treatments, it seemed like the birds didn’t chirp quite as loud and our dog would lay by her side and nuzzle her hands. She called me her little bird, a name she created and many people call me now. I flew down and perched right next to her when I needed any advice or was experiencing any struggles in life. My grandmother taught me how to be forgiving, and compassionate- and she believed that my passion would lead me to fly away if I had the chance.
‘It came to me in a dream…. ‘Follow the birds and you’ll have peace,’ that’s what she told me in the dream. ‘Follow the birds and your soul will know peace.’ Reading this I imagined my grandmother speaking to me. Sometimes, I feel guilty to be an American. I feel guilty that I am swathed in food, water, and Western comforts while over a third of the world struggles to survive. I feel even more guilty because my guilt is useless, un-constructive. My sense of peace with the world is in constant chaos. ‘He could not comprehend what was happening to him, but it had something to do with the casual cruelty of people who’d never missed a meal or had a gun stuck to their heads.’ I have never missed a meal. I want to make change somehow in the world. But how can I do that if I’ve never experienced a life of struggle? It’s desensitizing in a way. Every person lives a different life, but I struggle with the idea that I can not live and experience them all. I have no idea what it is to live a truly difficult or dangerous life.
‘Beauty you know, I think it’s nice, but it’s just for pleasure. I believe that men should apply their lives to useful things.’ ‘Who says beauty and pleasure aren’t useful? – Isn’t that what revolutions are ultimately about, beauty and pleasure for everyone?’ The world has forgotten what it’s fighting for. In our quest for peace and equality, genocides are committed and hunger is rampant. The value of all human life has become unbalanced – and balance is essential in life. I know that there are others who feel this way and others that want to help restore the balance of the world. And that’s why I am here.
‘I came for the birds. The most incredible birds in the world live here, and they do the most amazing things.’ I chose Global Citizen Year to be a part of this flock of fellows. These are my people. We are here to inspire each other, to encourage a lifestyle that is untraditional, and to feed and vibrate off of each others energy. The only way you can truly love someone else is to love yourself. In the same way, the only way that you can achieve peace in the world, is by achieving peace within yourself. My soul and I are following the birds. ‘Follow the birds and your soul will find peace.’
I am perched on my grandmothers hands. I am searching for her wisdom because I need it right now- this next year will be difficult and challenging and heartbreaking and life changing. I feel lucky to have my problems. I am grateful that these are my problems. I am not completely naive (key word completely). I know that just because I am coming into the world with good intentions, does not mean that I will be met with a yellow brick road to peace. I am a little bird in an unimaginable flock, but I have nothing but love for this world.