One Word 365

winter solstice

It’s December 21st. The winter solstice. The longest night of the year. You know what that means? Come tomorrow, the darkest days are behind us.

The darkest days are behind us.... for now. See, the realist in me is compelled to qualify that statement. For now. Because, as we all know, eventually the darkest days are ahead of us again.

Even still... This day, this night, this winter solstice — it echoes my word for 2018... It’s a word I have fought hard against for years. It’s a dangerous word — one I’d prefer to hide from than chase after. A word that stands in defiant opposition to my realism. A word I have long hated...

Hope.

Just thinking about it makes me cringe and scrunch up my face and feel sick to my stomach. Hope chooses to embrace the “darkest days are behind us” moment even while knowing it won’t last forever. Hope raises its glass on the longest night of the year and smiles for the longer days on the horizon. Hope sees my “for now” and raises it with a “and that’s enough”.

And so, with tears in my eyes, a lump in my throat, and butterflies in my chest, I raise my glass. To brighter days, to shorter shadows, to present-moment joys, and to frighteningly beautiful hope... Salute!

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when badassery looks mostly like vulnerability

I knew badassery wouldn't be easy. (I’m not that naïve.) But I expected it to at least come with a side dish of quiet accomplishment. Or, at the very least, a small serving of relief in simply knowing I did the right thing.  

Instead, my badassery was served with heaping portions of risk and vulnerability and uncertainty. 

There were no grand moments of heroism. No victory marches. No Wonder-Woman stances to commemorate an overwhelming sense of satisfaction. 

No, this wasn't a year of bold triumph. It was a hard-fought twelve months of standing up, speaking out, making hard choices, and putting my heart on the line. My badassery looked like trying and trusting and hoping yet again, even when I didn’t want to and even when my experiences told me I knew better. It looked like saying difficult things, fighting to be seen, taking chances in work and relationships and heart. 

I knew badassery meant doing those things without guarantee of a positive outcome. But, unknowingly, I still half-expected that there would be one—not every time, but surely more often than not, right? Isn’t that the reward for the risk?

No...

What I learned is this: The reward for risk is merely the risk itself.  

The point isn’t the outcome, even though that’s what motivates the risk to begin with. The point is simply the willingness (and, I dare say, the courage) to roll the dice and take a chance. 

That alone is the victory. 

Though, I assure you, it doesn’t feel like one. There’s nothing glamorous or stately about this kind of “win”. It certainly doesn’t feel good. It's disappointing, exhausting, frustrating, painful….

I’m not “owed” a break simply because I’ve risked repeatedly or tried so hard or been through so much or any other reason I can come up with. And that is a bitter pill to swallow. 

So the big, character-shaping decision is whether or not to keep climbing back into the ring. 

And all I can do is sigh wearily, and shake my head, and mutter the words, What other choice do I have?

the brother who shows up

Sudir* was only a year old when his parents died. 

From then on, he and his siblings lived with his grandparents in their rural village in northern India. When a recruiter visited from Mumbai promising a job in the city, Sudir's oldest sister Nandi* accepted. She wanted to help provide for her family. 

Once she arrived in the city, Nandi discovered she'd been tricked. Her identity documents were confiscated and she was sold into sex slavery. 

She was twelve years old. 

When Sudir became a teenager, he learned what had happened to Nandi—the sister he had absolutely no memories of, because he'd been so young when she left. At 16 years old, he moved to Mumbai, determined to find her.

He searched brothel after brothel after brothel. 

Until eventually he found her. 

Her "owner" told him that her debt bondage was 16,000 Rupees (approximately $240) and he would not release her until the debt was paid in full. Sudir got a job at a gambling club, and saved every cent until he had enough. 

He returned to the brothel, paid the 16,000 Rupees his sister "owed," and bought her freedom.

Thrilled and grateful that she had a brother to find and free her, Nandi also felt heartbroken for the girls she left behind. They had been her family—her sisters—for years. All they'd had was each other, and now she had to leave them in slavery while she went free? 

"Where is their brother?" she asked him through her sobs. "Who will rescue them?"

Sudir knew he could never earn enough money to purchase each one's freedom, but he also knew he had to do something.

So he started doing investigative work. He went undercover to gather evidence and document illegal practices. After presenting the evidence to law enforcement, they raided the brothel, rescued the women, and prosecuted the traffickers. 

And so it began.

With a very deep sense of justice and an immensely personal connection to the issue of human trafficking, Sudir is now the India Country Director for The Exodus Road. To date, he and his team have worked with police to free over 330 girls and boys from sex slavery. The youngest was 7 years old.

Sudir's very first rescue was his sister. 

But he couldn't stop there.

Because he knows that each one is someone's sister. Someone's nephew. Someone's daughter. 

And he wants to be the brother who shows up to rescue them. 

Oh, and Nandi?

She's married now.

Together with her husband, she works alongside Sudir at The Exodus Road. She leads a team of social workers and manages the aftercare program, providing physical, medical, and emotional support for those who are rescued.

And that, friends, is what redemption looks like. 

:: :: ::

$35/month funds one full day of investigative work by Sudir and his team in India (called BRAVO Team). BRAVO needs 50 more monthly donors in order to hire additional covert operatives, investigators, and social workers to maximize their impact throughout India. 

Together, you and I can join Sudir and the rest of BRAVO Team as the brothers and sisters who show up to find and free the ones in desperate need of rescue and restoration. 

:: :: ::

Please take 5 minutes to watch this video.
It tells the collective story of our trip to Southeast Asia,
and will open your eyes to the complicated layers of human trafficking. 


*Names changed.

until

I still need to unpack from my Thailand trip.

Physically and metaphorically.

The unzipped, still-half-full suitcase on my closet floor reminds me that I still need to at least attempt to make sense of all that I saw and heard and learned and experienced. Though "make sense" isn't even accurate—not really. Because some things just cannot be made sense of.

But I need to try to take these thoughts, feelings, memories, questions... and clothe them in syllables—dress these intangibles with threads of letters so that I can hold them in my hands and trace them with my fingers in the way a blind woman perceives what she cannot see through the darkness.

I need to let myself fully feel.

To sit in the dark.

To grapple toward the light.

Until the words come...

the girl in the brothel {VIDEO}

Last week, I told you about meeting Ang in a brothel.

That post was actually spurred on by a video interview I did.

The Exodus Road captured footage and stories during my time with them in Thailand — such a unique, captivating, and engaging way to help bring you to the front lines of experiencing their work in action. 

Though you're familiar with the story already, I wanted to pass along the video in which I share about my time with Ang. It was a definitely a conversation that will stick with me forever...

:: :: ::

$35/month funds one full day of investigative work in India (called BRAVO Team). BRAVO needs 50 more monthly donors in order to hire additional covert operatives, investigators, and social workers to maximize their impact.

Together, you and I can join the BRAVO Team as the brothers and sisters who show up to find and free the ones in desperate need of rescue and restoration.