We think we are helpful and we are just not.
We think we know better and we just don’t.
A few days ago I wrote about power and the power we have to partner sometimes turns into an arrogant force of good will and money and knowledge. I’ve been “that girl” who walked into the room to save it.
But this time everything’s been different…
We got off the bus overwhelmed with women looking me square in the eyes. Mary Sunshine, hugged so tight and sang blessings over me, “BE FREE,” she chants. This was right. This was their business, their hood, their place, their people and eyes were far from shifty- eyes were proud of what we are about to see, they were proud of what THEY built, who THEY had become, what THEY had to contribute.
Design and make a tote that the world would want to buy- this was the goal of our team of 5. Just as you would suspect it begins in Prada, we sat down together with samples, and photographs and ideas of our own.
I didn’t have to ask what Fanny thought…. She spoke up right away, pointing to pleats and straps, shaking her head no to most absolutely everything. Her passion and leadership were unrestrained. I imagined her before the co-op when she couldn’t provide for herself, when she owned barely a thing on the earth and I wondered if she would have been so fierce? I don’t know maybe?
We mistake people for projects.
We mistake need for weakness.
We mistake struggle for pity.
Lift your eyes. I’ve heard it said, don’t over celebrate scoring on home base when you started on third. Dear western friends, we started on third base and our…
… is limited by how easy it has been for us. If you teach a man to fish or teach a woman to sew and turn them loose…. watch the pride that wells, the stories that are built, the children that are unleashed, the darling bags that are birthed.
Jennifer lived in Rwanda, she and her husband were starting companies, and she saw potential. She built a friendship with her neighbors and when Jessica started Noonday, Jennifer rallied them.
The women had to be trained, they needed a few tools and then she stepped back and watched. Jennifer moved back to the states over a year ago and these women HAVE IT. Their co-owned sewing co-op is producing products sold around the world.
I just freakin’ believe in women. You give them a tool and they will build a city if it helps their kids thrive.
After we were celebrating the success and beauty of the things we had created together. Fanny stepped up and with authority (and a translator) and she thanked us for our friendship and our belief in them and gifted us with key chains, symbolizing the key to their hearts.
Do you see the difference?
We were sisters.
We were friends.
We were collaborators.
We were partners in great important work.
They were not our charity and with the strength and dignity and skills and the whispers of…”Be Free” in our ears I felt more like their charity than that they were mine.
But I could have NEVER seen it this way on my first “mission trip” as an arrogant high schooler. I thought I could save the world. I thought they needed my money and candy and clothes to be happy.
No. No. And No.
They just need a hint of way out and they would have created it for themselves and their families just as these women have.
All of the things we think live in our fenced in suburbs…. but is it possible we are the ones to be pitied? We are the ones who have it all and nothing at the same time?
Fanny doesn’t need anything from me…. but I need so much from her.
I need her perseverance.
I need her joy.
I need her passion.
I need her skills… the girl has skills!
My prayer for us:
God help our arrogance. Help our honest misunderstanding that we have it better.
Show us a new way- a way that isn’t condescending, that kills words like “us and them”.
Let us be the ones who spread dignity rather than charity.
Let it be true of our generation, that on our watch we empowered rather than disabled. May we be ones that brought friendship instead of pity.
I learned a word yesterday… Duhugurane: Let us Learn from Each Other.
My sister, my friend, my leader, Fanny… I learned from you. I learned to not be so afraid of my potential, to speak up when I have something to say, to create when it is burning inside of me, to do what I love and what I can do and trust God to let it change the world.
I learned from you.
Thank you dear friend.
Do you want to be an advocate I can’t think of a better way than to help these women’s businesses thrive: