11 January 2007

Nothing to Fear but Fear

Since my wandering began, the most common line of questioning I face from other people revolves around fear of one kind or another. And it's not that I don't feel fear--it strikes my heart perhaps as often as anyone else. It's just that I keep going--Fear doesn't stop me.

Fear of the Unknown is the most prevalent fear I've perceived in folks. Where will you sleep, where will you get money, what happens if you get sick, how will friends and family know whether you're okay... What if, what if, what if.

Shortly after I arrived in New Orleans, I met a woman who had lost home and possessions to Katrina and the floods. When she discovered I was a sojourner, she was full of fear-based questions for me. I answered each question in turn and she finally said, "Oh, I could never live that way. I need more security." I was stunned into speechlessness for a moment--security? She believed that her life was more secure than mine even after all that had happened to her in the last several months. I was astonished.

"You have lived working 9 to 5, with locks on your possessions and money in the bank and I have lived with none of this. Yet, look at us: I have lost nothing and you have lost much. Whose life is more secure?"

I believe the world is a beautiful dangerous place. We make our way without guarantees or assurances. Having things, as millions across the Gulf Coast know all too well by now, does not ensure safety or comfort or protection. Anything can happen at any time.

There are stories of Sojourner Truth's life in which she faced hostile, racist mobs in her travels. She faced physical harm in these situations but the only reported injuries she suffered in her life occurred while she was safely ensconced in slavery, while she had shelter and food and clothing provided by an owner.

There are several stories that tell of how she calmed a hostile crowd with her voice, singing or speaking to them. Years ago, when I was young and foolish, in my search for love and companionship, I wound up in some situations where I faced physical injury or death. In each episode, I was afraid but kept my wits about me and was able to talk my way out of danger but always in a one-to-one format. Could I talk my way out if I were facing a crowd?

I am more afraid of what can happen to me while sitting still and playing by the rules than I am of developments on the road. More afraid of becoming disarmed through the complacency that can accompany living a "normal" life. My mottos on the road have been

--choose from Love not Fear
--I have everything I need
--the Earth is my home

I realize that the tide has turned now and that I am choosing to wander not because it is my mission as it was for Sojourner. I am choosing to wander, at least in part, because I am afraid of settling down. I am challenging this fear now by taking an apartment and establishing accounts with utility companies and accepting a job with the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives. (www.turkey-creek.org)

Where is the love in this? It is perhaps not yet Love that I feel for TCCI and all the folks connected with it, but it is something like love for the work that they do that sustains me in these first scary days of settling.

I pray I can retain my sense of freedom, my belief that Gulfport is only one small room in my Earth home and the rest of Home is just beyond the doorway, that whether I am here or on the move I will continue to have everything I need and that even while I focus on my work with TCCI, the greater Story continues to unfurl.