North Africa

 
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I was in North Africa last spring, a witness to their bewilderment. 

Their questioning, pain-filled, hijab-framed eyes peered into mine searching for an answer, a defense, a reason behind the madness that is hatred in my country.

I could give them none.

I assured them that we did not all feel that way, that many in my country looked past stereotypes and loved, that there was no way hatred would be given more power, more influence.

I was wrong and now I can't rest.

Haunted by those eyes.

I meditate on the desperate hands that clutched my arm in giddy trust masking trembling fear.

I remember the bathhouse, being stripped naked and scrubbed down, stereotypes like dead skin shed and scraped off leaving red rawness yet smooth vulnerability.

And as I stood naked with these African women my heart was infected, infected with love and adoration, empathy and pain.

I was humbled and as the woman washing me slopped shampoo into my hair and dragged her fingers through my scalp I broke.

Tears mingling with filthy water from dirtiness, from hatred, from ignorance and pride.

These people are precious,

not their stereotype.

Oh, how they love and extend open arms.

They kiss on both cheeks the white foreigner, the traveling stranger.

After their questioning, affirmed by the hope they saw in our faces, they broke out in joyous dance.

One boy drummed on a table while we all danced together, twirling around on the dusty floor entwining culture and community, sweat and sweetness.

Oh, that this would be our response.

Oh, that we would dance together and shake off the hatred and the unwillingness to press fingers into our own hurting places so that we may love without hindrance or brokenness.