This summer I was captivated by a story of reconciliation projects in Rwanda. Fifteen years after the genocide where a million people were killed by their neighbors in a hundred days, a woman rides on the back of a bicycle pedaled by the man who slay her father and brothers. They travel together facilitating forgiveness. They ask both murderer and victim, in the name of Christ, to do the difficult work of letting go, of putting down the burden of what cannot be undone.
My heart was moved as I attempted in vain to understand both the horror of the genocide and the miracle of mercy. I thought, as all mothers think, of my own children. I thought of their precious lives and shuddered at the stories of what these mothers, on the other side of the globe, had lost; what had been forcibly taken from them and what they had witnessed. My heart squeezed tightly in my chest and the tears came.
As an act of solidarity with these other mothers I committed to selling their baskets through the Rwanda Basket Company. Selling their handmade works of art in the States means that these other mothers can earn a fair wage and feed their children. Reconciliation is the work of God, but I could do this small thing. And so the baskets began arriving with the afternoon mail. I sorted and delivered them to those who had placed orders without giving much thought to how, if at all, this little project was affecting my children. Of course they hover when baskets arrive and go with me to drop them off and understand that silence is required when I talk on the phone for business (as opposed to when I talk to Grandma and they are free to pull on my pants with endless requests for cheese).
But yesterday I took Sarah with me to a basket party. I knew a playmate would be there and she gladly agreed to a grown-up event and some car time alone with mom. At these gatherings, I show a short video. It briefly reviews the reality of the genocide with a few difficult photos. I watched Sarah as she watched the video. She nibbled her fourth cookie and judging by the lack of expression on her face I assumed she did not understand what she was looking at or what was being discussed. As soon as we were back in the car she spoke. “I want to travel to every country but Rwanda,” she said. So she had been listening.
“Why don’t you want to go to Rwanda, Sarah?” I asked, praying for the words to assuage fear, engender respect, and explain what had happened in a way that is appropriate for a four year old.
“There are too many bones.” She replied. “I’ll trip.”
Her words stabbed and I whispered a prayer for those brave other mothers, walking towards God and wholeness, crossing a valley full of bones.