The last two weeks have been a flurry of activity—not that that’s all that weird for me given the many hats I wear, but since I announced that I would be climbing Kilimanjaro on behalf of Somebody’s Mama as part of the One Million Thumbprints campaign, the flurry has been…different.
There’s a sense of urgency, an excitement with very little anxiety. My commitment to this project has brought everything else in my life into sharp focus.
I’ve had to structure my days around training “hikes,” which are clearly necessary. My to-do list regarding the logistics of getting the right visas, the right medications, and the right gear is unending. I’ve also been more intense in my spiritual practices of prayer and meditation because I know without a doubt, it doesn’t matter if my body is ready if I can’t get my heart and mind right.
My part in this climb is just one subplot in an epic, compelling story—one that began with a woman named Esperance who gave her thumbprint as a signature, a defining biometric, proving that every person is as human as the next. When my friend and climb leader, Belinda, met Esperance, the course of many lives shifted—the lives of women whose stories we are telling and the lives of every person who hears their stories.
Part of this campaign involves gathering thumbprints—I’ve become not only the crazy lady walking around in hiking boots but also the crazy lady who pulls out a muslin banner and ink pad everywhere she goes. The purpose of gathering the thumbprints is two-fold: we engage people by telling the why of the story, and every thumbprint comes with a name added to a petition that will be considered by policy makers and leaders in the international community.
The first place I gathered thumbprints was at my sons’ cub scouts pinewood derby. I had talked with a few of the other parents about the climb in passing. One parent, Melissa, who happens to be in charge of scheduling our pack hikes seemed excited to see my thumbprint kit—she’d read my posts on social media and was so encouraging. She gave me her thumbprint and started sending other people my way.
At the end of the night, a six-year-old girl approached me as I was putting my things away. She said, “Ma’am, can I give you my thumbprint, too?” I didn’t know her name because her brother is in a different den than my boys, and I hadn’t spent much time with her. When she wrote her name on the paper, I saw that her name is Grace, and she’s Melissa’s daughter.
I had to hold back some tears as I watched her press her thumb on the banner. Granted, I cry easily, but this moment felt magical.
Our story began with a fifty-year-old widow from the Democratic Republic of the Congo named Esperance, a name that means HOPE, and it “ends” with an eight-year-old girl from Mascoutah, IL named GRACE.
The money we raise is not just a fact and figure, not just a handout. The money we raise is HOPE in places where violence has been writing the story. Jeremy Courtney at Preemptive Love Coalition says that we have to “unmake violence with love.” When we love Mamas around the world through our giving and through our blood, sweat, and tears on the mountain, we are telling them that violence doesn’t get the last word.
Grace is a complex word with various meanings, all stemming from the Latin root gratus meaning “thankful.” I pray for grace every day—to have the right words at the right time with the right people, to move without causing injury when I’m training, to stay cool under pressure. In the Christian tradition, grace is defined as God’s unmerited favor and the bestowal of blessings, and I can tell you that I have never felt the love of God (and a God who is Love) alive in my heart more than in accepting the responsibility of telling Esperance’s story. Saying I am thankful is a gross understatement.
So I move forward with LOVE
I’m Somebody’s Mama, and I’m climbing for Esperance, for hope. I’m Somebody’s Mama, and I’m climbing for Grace. Because there are women around the world who need me to give voice to their concerns and because there are young girls watching.
If you’d like to donate to the One Million Thumbprints campaign, click HERE. Every $24 gives someone living in South Sudan a chance to start over. Thanks, friends. I’m coming for your thumbprints!