It’s been one year since I returned from my trip to India with the As Our Own team.
A whole year.
It feels like a lifetime ago. Maybe a better way to describe the feeling is that the experience turned my insides out, making me a different person who longs to live a different life. India is the hinge upon which my Before and After swings.
In many ways, the swing is still in process. Everything I saw in India—the despair in the red-light district, the overwhelming joy of the adorable girls in the As Our Own family, the ornate and decorative culture, the bustle of the city—all these pushed the page of my Before and got it turning to the After. The treasure deposited in my heart oiled the hinge, putting change in motion.
Upon my return, however, the treasure in my heart became rather heavy. It was time to open up the lid and process my experiences. Summer 2012 was an emotional blur. Listlessness, doubt, uncertainty, heartache, tears. I think this is where the page got stuck in mid-turn.
I wrestled with my inability to be in India, with the girls. I wanted to pour in to the oldest daughters who are in high school (and buy them laptops, and mentor them, and help them study, and, and, and!). I wanted to play with the little ones who excitedly exclaimed, “Erin didi! Come play!” I wanted to hear passionate worship in this lovely language. How could I do any of that from Illinois? And if I can’t do that, what can I do? I felt utterly lost.
That’s because I was stuck between the Before and the After, stuck in my swirl of emotion. Prayer was difficult because I was just so raw. God’s grace held me in this in-between place until my heart could recover. The remainder of 2012 was a slow emergence from the fog. I began writing, giving shape to my in-between with letters, words, sentences.
And here I am, today—a whole year later. Whew! I am a slow processor! But some directives are taking shape for how I am to walk out the After.
1. I can’t do everything, but I can do something.
What is my part in working to end human slavery? What is my role in the lives of the As Our Own daughters? I can’t rescue everyone, and really, I can’t even rescue someone. But I can help trusted organizations work to that end. I can support As Our Own (and other anti-trafficking initiatives) through my prayers, my words, my funding, my advocacy. It feels small, but this is just the start of my After, and I am trusting that each new page will build a stronger sense of what’s next.
2. I don’t know everything, but I can learn.
My time in India was monumental for me. This one trip is a huge deal in my heart and life. It is true: Others have traveled more, seen more, and been more involved to help the hurt and exploited and downtrodden. I am learning to be OK with the little bit that I have learned, because that is serving as a catalyst for learning more. This is just a starting point, a place where I can say that I know I do not know it all, but I want to know more.
So here in 2013, I am trusting that these two directives will be my guardrails as my After unfolds.
Image: India Bricks, Animal Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Florida. Personal photograph by Erin Straza. 2013.