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(GH) War and Bread

This is what I wrote last year around 9/11. It’s still on my heart. Originally posted on livejournal on 9/11/11.

I’ve shared my story in the past. So this isn’t a story directly related to 9/11, but it is a story that’s been on my heart all week. Three stories, actually.

We–my mom, sister and I–were sitting in a nice restaurant in Central Asia, with native people, and we had just finished a fantastic traditional meal. My sister asked our friends to share one bit of their culture that they would like Westerners to know. They thought for a few minutes, and then began to go around the table. Most of them talked about women’s rights and about hospitality.

One man shared a story with us. There is an old tradition, he says. When two people (families or towns) are warring, it used to be that a woman could stop the war. She would bake bread in her home, and then take it to a woman in the other side. The people would cease fighting, because the woman had been so brave and had earned so much respect.

My sister asked if an American woman brings bread, can the war stop? We all laughed. No, they said, because the terrorists do not honor tradition.

The image of that tradition is beautiful and horrifying to me, as I think of a little woman in her chadar, clutching bread still warm from the oven, going into war with a silent gift of peace.

I am also thinking of the little older woman who dropped in to have tea with us. She spoke longingly of the city–the city before the war. There was grief in her voice, though she smiled when my mom reminded her of the roses in bloom. I am thinking of how she cried quietly when she spoke about her fear that the enemies will return and take the city again. She sat on the other side of the room, hunched and dusty, dapping her tears with her chadar silently. I’m thinking of the whole generations of war–and I am humbled by the thought that I have only had one day in my entire life when war was in my home country.

I am thinking of the widow who baked me bread when I was ill. How I sat in her mud hut, miserable and sick, trying to be gracious, making faces at the children who peered in the doorway, and she left quietly. She seemed tired to me, and I thought she had left to rest a moment. She provided for her family by climbing to a mountain every morning to gather wild plants, and returned with a huge bundle of these on her head, and she had been telling us of her headaches. But she returned and offered me her fresh bread, and I didn’t even realize that she made it for me. I am thinking of the comfort of that warm bread in my hands, while I listened to them talk in another language about violence in the village and the death of their daughters.

I am thinking of a man who broke bread and gave it as a gift, a promise, of peace everlasting. I am thinking of how He loves the widows and orphans, the grieving and the weak, whose lives were changed ten years ago. I am thinking of how he loves the men and women who sat with me around a table and shared their culture with me. I am thinking of how he loves the woman who loves her city, how he loves the city so much more than she ever could. I am thinking of how he loves a widow in a village who climbs a mountain every day.

9/11 was a day of extreme evil. Looking at footage of that day reminds me of that–of the fear of such an evil. But on the day of, and in the years following, I am reminded that the world isn’t all darkness. I reminded that there will be peace–not in the world as we know it, but in a world where women don’t have to weep for their cities. And that brings me hope.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.
-Luke 24:30-31

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