The town in Connecticut where I grew up, and where my parents still live, is about 20 minutes from Newtown.
The city in Congo where I lived for 3 years, and where the SHONA ladies still live, is Goma.
Yesterday I was listening to a BBC world briefing, and I heard a broadcast about the tragedy in Newtown, Ct. Followed by a broadcast about the ongoing tragedy in Goma, Congo.
Suffice it to say, there is something peculiarly horrifying to hear on the radio, 2 places that are close to my heart and yet truly worlds apart. And now suddenly, here they are, one after the other, in almost the same horrifying breath. Tragedy upon tragedy.
Newtown is a beautiful town. A few months ago SHONA had a booth at a craft fair there. It was an outside fall festival, and the weather was beautiful, but what struck me most that day was the way SHONA was truly welcomed in Newtown. I met many wonderful customers there, who cared so much about the women of Congo, about what was happening so far away.
But now tragedy is all too near to that community. And I, like everyone else, am at a loss for words.
I think of those words so often repeated "this is too close to home". I hear them from friends I have in Connecticut, those who live in the area, those who know people directly affected.
And yet I somehow feel them too. Newtown is too close to home. Goma is also too close to home.
And to be honest, I think everyone is saying this about Newtown right now. For all of us, this...this...inexplicable horror is far too close to home. No matter where we live.
Then I think about the ongoing war in Eastern Congo, and all those who have died and those who have been forced out of their homes and who live in fear. But I am also reminded of the countless people who I don't know, and who the SHONA ladies do not know, but who are following closely each step those women make, and praying for them daily, for peace in a city torn by war. I have received emails from people saying how they wake each night, in the middle of the night, praying for the women. I have received fevered phone calls from SHONA customers asking what they can do to help.
I think again of those words... "this is too close to home".
Sometimes these words are forced upon us, by physical proximity. And sometimes they rise unbidden to our lips, no matter where the tragedy occurred.
They are painful words, the words we utter when we let ourselves begin to feel at least for a moment the terrible violence that plagues our world. We let ourselves be touched by tragedy, wherever it is found.
But they are also some of the best words, the bravest words we could utter. Because what is the other choice? To turn around and look away, and hope we can keep our distance? No, these words are a cry to action, a refusal to continue to accept the violence which plagues our world.
"Too close to home..."
With these words we claim this world as our home. And those who suffer in it, are our family.
These tragedies, are all far too close to home. It is up to us to grab each others' hands, and go out into this world, determined to make it better.