In one of her incredible poems, slam poet Andrea Gibson mentions the love of a mother, daring us to think about the joy our mothers felt the first time they said our first name. When I heard the poem, I thought about it for many days, however, I kept thinking about why a woman would love her child –just as my mother has loved me- even though babies spend nearly nine months eating up all of their energy and nutrients from the inside out and they have to deliver it through a process of pain, blood and tears.
Our culture refers to birth as a beautiful moment in one’s life. Why? A baby doesn’t seem very happy when it comes out his or her mother’s womb and I’m not sure if the mother’s smile is happiness or relief from the labor pains. My conclusion is simple: birth is a painful process. It is a process that requires strength and total vulnerability from the part of the mother and her child. It seems rather ironic that one of the most powerless situations in one’s life is also when we come into being. It is an opportunity for learning and personal growth.
I’ve been born and reborn a few times in my life. The first time it happened was in 1986 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It happened again when I was two and my father abandoned our family without any hesitation. When I was eight some of the most important people in my life immigrated to the USA. I was fourteen when I was born once again upon my arrival to this country. In 2007, I was born as an activist and organizer after a rally to help Gaby’s family stay together in the country where I stood with allies outside the Homeland Security Building in Miami. Lastly, I feel it is happening to me now!
Each time, I had to learn to cope with my new reality and to live under my "new skin". Yesterday while walking in freezing weather I was born again. Little by little, the rain became snow and the skin in my hand turned red as I started shaking uncontrollably. It was in the most arduous test the trail offered me thus far that I was recreated as a human being. It was through physical pain that I was able to achieve clarity and understanding. There were a few times that I thought about stopping, but I didn’t because I knew there was something greater to be accomplished.
Today, the weather was beautiful but a different set of challenges arose in the horizon. The group needed to find a way to relate to the community in a more effective way. We asked Adelina, a statewide community organizer in Georgia, who gave us the most simple and yet wise answer -listen. She told us to listen to the community so their voices could be heard. She didn’t ask us to organize or agitate but rather to simply become a vessel for people to pour their concerns and hopes. When inquired about the sacrifices she decided to take so the trail would succeed she simply answered that we are part of her community. I felt incredibly humbled by her words.
A young seventh grader, Ulysses, decided to spend his whole day walking with us. I did not think that he was going to follow through and yet I was wrong. I was eager to apply what Adelina had taught me earlier today and opened my heart and ears to learn and listen. I’ve learned more about life then I had in years in Miami.
I am learning to crawl in my new skin. The trail is not the movement but only one of the many aspects of it. Each one of us fulfills a function in it. My contribution right now is walking and that’s why I didn’t stop even though every muscle in my body was aching yesterday.