I was re-grounded tonight. Oh how I did not know the exact gift this evening would bring.
I came into the evening arriving early to help, carrying within me frenetic energy and thoughts of lack and of worry as we all sometimes do. I really was not feeling grounded in myself.
The storytelling and beauty of humanness and true opportunities for inspired action brought me back to center.
At each table. goldenrod colored, postcard-sized paper with the ‘Seed of Life’ geometric pattern in red-orange ink at the corner were thoughtfully laid in round, silver Indian Thali plates on the black tablecloths. I loved this opportunity provided to take notes for myself, to reflect later on the gems from tonight. To carry the ripples from others’ lives home on paper, in a few words that would spark memory of the sacred and celebratory space we all created – together . The beauty of that.
Fatouma, again, along with our dear friend, Rose, from Sudan, called ululations…their long, wavering, high-pitched howls brought our focus again to the front of the room. The final storyteller of the evening. My heart was fully thumping and open and ready. It was my dear friend, Fatouma’s, turn!
Fatouma walked steadily, one foot courage, one foot nerves, another step courage, another step more nerves (‘Ok, I’m doing this’) to the front of the room – to the stage. She was dressed in gauzy, Ethiopian whitest-white, handwoven cotton, with a brilliant ultra-marine blue stripe near the edge of the scarf-hijab covering her head. Now standing before us all, facing familiar and new faces – and with a playful, flirtatious, eyebrows-raised joy-smile.
Ok, guys. My story? It is a long one.
Fatouma was struck by just how many stories she has, she began to tell her story of being a child bride at 12 years old in the countryside and of her escape… she paused to think of another to share and showed relief, laughing when friends shouted suggestions of, “Tell your story about living in the refugee camp in Djibouti!” “Tell the story of meeting your husband, Abraham!”
This woman. She can tell stories.
With comedic-timing and shrieking and animated character-acting, her strong will, determination and full-on embracing of the many truly extraordinary, frightening, physically painful, emotionally devastating paths her life has taken her…she tells it all with that infectious smile and that joy that she carries so fully in her heart. Fatouma’s love for her religion, her dedication to her ritual of prayer, her faith in Allah – they have all saved her, have kept her here, strong, with us, among us, before us, blessing us with unbelievable tales.
Fatouma’s face brightened and she bobbed her head, fluttered her eyelashes and told her story of meeting this man who always wore a long-sleeved white shirt, with a collar, always ironed. He wore a white t-shirt underneath with the first few buttons undone and the shirt open on his chest. He wore pressed, black pants and a beautiful afro. “Oh, this man. He knew how to dress,” Fatouma told us with certainty and delight in her voice. She described, with eyebrows raised, how he slowly courted her, didn’t rush her and how he is now her husband of over 30 years.