December 28, 2011
In many respects, the year 2011 has been, well, in the words of Queen Elizabeth now almost twenty years ago, an annus horribilis. In her 1992 speech to Parliament, she had good reason to call upon the Latin phrase which everyone knew how to translate. It had been a “horrible year”, what with all too public family troubles among her children and their unsettled, rocky marriages, and the all time low in the people’s view of the Monarchy which included calls for severe cutbacks in the royal expense account and even the elimination of the Monarchy altogether, and then those fires at Windsor. Generally, the Queen is expected to be the gold standard for stiff upper lip. But in 1992, in her annual State of the State report, she yielded to full disclosure: it had been an awful, forgettable, disposable twelve months.
And so for 2011. Maybe not so much for the Queen. But maybe for you. The financial pressures, the lack of employment, the fears triggered by vanishing security, global instability, the proliferation of terror, political gridlock, crushing debt, institutions that were once the bedrock of the common good crumbling into irrelevance. It’s quite enough to turn us all into a society of Ebenezer Scrooges.
Maybe it’s good to remember the Queen’s lament back in 1992. Her fortunes have certainly changed, as we all will witness in 2012. In June, the United Kingdom will celebrate her sixtieth year as HRH – the Diamond Jubilee. Her popularity has soared around the world. Her persistence, her commitment to duty, her steadiness through the storms of her life and the nation’s will inspire great celebration. And then, don’t forget Kate. What a find. The case will be made that Kate Middleton single handedly rescued, of all things, the Monarchy itself. It will be a credible argument.
So this weekend, as we turn the page on another year, there is hope.
The basis for that hope goes well beyond the fortunes of Britain’s Buckingham Palace. Look around you. You’ll see little green shoots popping up all around. They will need attention and nurture and care, but be sure – there’s a harvest coming. And it will be bountiful.
One of those evidences of life emerging from the ashes involves another extraordinary woman, who, along with more than forty equally determined colleagues, are training for an unprecedented challenge. Someday, I would like to write her story in full. When it is published, you will call it an inspiring page-turner.
Cathey’s determination was born out of considerable hardship, too. But now, looking back, something beautiful came out of the ashes. We first knew her when her four children were just finding their way, becoming independent of their mother’s attentive care. (They have each one become extraordinary adults.) Cathey set out to win her teaching credential and a position in the local school district. Her college major set her in the direction of her life long passion, with values that came right out of the history books. Let’s call it American agrarian family values straight from the heartland. When she landed that teaching spot, she turned an abandoned property into a productive,working farm and hundreds, maybe thousands of children learned to work hard, plant, water, feed, tend, prune, dig, sweep, shovel, and then, harvest. She transformed a whole town. She won recognition – not only the gratitude of parents and community leaders, but the State of California honored her achievements.
Now, Cathey travels to remote places around the world teaching farming techniques that are transforming little plots of ground all over Africa. The results are stunning. A new standard of living emerges, nutrition improves, hope springs alive. But in her travels, another troubling discovery broke her heart. It’s the plight of exploited women and children, sold on the open market like chattel, all over the world. As barriers drop, and the globe becomes more and more connected, we become more and more aware. Traditions and cultural, even religious ideologies have marginalized women for hundreds, no thousands of years. Poverty turns children into assets, sold on the open market by desperate unsuspecting parents for whatever profits they might generate – industrial labor, begging in the crowded city streets, dismembered for body parts, sex for sale. Authorities turn a blind eye. And the children suffer. Women give up. The cycle of poverty proliferates.
Climbing a mountain attracts curiosity, wonder and admiration. Cathey’s husband is one of my best friends. When he and a few of his pals climbed Africa’s highest peak, Kilimanjaro, a couple of years back, something clicked in Cathey’s mind and heart. She asked a life altering question. What if a pack of women made the climb, and told the whole world that their purpose in taking on this impossible challenge was to raise both awareness and money to combat human trafficking around the world? By now, she knew personally the people who rescue, retrain and care for the victims. She understood how scarce are the resources required to take on the enormous, overwhelming task. “Let’s do something!” became her mantra.
Next month, January 12, 2012, Cathey Anderson leads forty-seven women to conquer Mount Kilimanjaro. Why? Here’s her answer: “The highest mountain in Africa, its summit is known as Uhuru Peak. Uhuru is the Swahili word for freedom. Climbing Kilimanjaro is symbolic of the huge climb to freedom faced daily by millions of enslaved women and children worldwide.”
I’ll be watching the blog site for daily reports. Not only because I know this is dangerous, demanding, risky business; but because it signals the dawning of a new day. Freedom for many.
Hope for us all.
Copyright Kenneth E Kemp 2011
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