Many years ago, a pious and well-meaning friend tried to introduce me to God. Without God, life has no meaning, she argued. I replied, “Then my life shall remain meaningless.”
Fortunately, it didn’t.
It’s almost cliché for a mother to write about the birth of her child as the miracle of her existence, the fons et origo, the event that cut a line down the spine of her life, dissecting her very existence into two separate but unequal halves.
Nevertheless, I echo these sentiments. I still remember the moment my eyes gazed upon the slimy, wiggling bundle of fat being transferred from the drop site between my legs to the clear plastic bassinet a few feet away.
“London,” I called to her, and her face jerked in my direction, her dark eyes searching the room before finding and resting on mine. She knew her mother’s voice. A cry escaped her lips, and my heart expanded.
I remember thinking, I did not know, I did not know… I did not know I was so empty, to be so full. My life took shape. Let others claim God, I thought; London was my meaning.
Not that my life completely lacked meaning before motherhood. In college, my philanthropist interests broadened and took off running, never stopping long at one cause. Every day, a different protest.
Han Sen Must Step Down!
Stop Bombing Innocent Serbian Children!
Give Peas a Chance!
I held my signs high and shouted with the crowd—most of the time, anyway.
But if I’m being honest, the protests were more of a pastime than a serious consideration. They were thrown in between parties, scattered and stuffed between concerts and day drinking and boys.
The world’s needy and hungry, the suffering, the martyred, the refugee children weeping and weary and scarred by the face of war—they existed merely in the peripheral, acknowledged only when their plight peaked my interest and when the time and place to protest aligned comfortably within the confines of my convenience.
These days when I’m not working with other activists, I work on my own. I swap my protest sign for two thumbs and a cell phone. Representatives Lamar Smith and Roger Williams; Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn—I have those pasty, prehistoric shitbags on speed dial.
Is there a bill in Congress attempting to limit women’s health? They can expect a call.
Is there a bill in Congress that will negatively impact minorities or my brothers and sisters of a different faith or sexual orientation? They can expect a call.
Is there a bill trying to hammer another stake in the planet’s coffin? They can expect a call.
Sometimes I get my kids in on the action. I’ve taken London with me to protests organized by Planned Parenthood at the Capitol Building. I’ve watched with pride as she held her Women’s rights are human rights sign higher than anyone else.
My son Kaya called John McCain when Obamacare was on the chopping block. “Please, Senator McCain, you were a hero in World War II. Please be a hero again.” (It didn’t occur to me until after my son hung up that he had cited the wrong war. Oh well, the intention was good.)
Before, activism was a pastime. Now, it is my way of life. I don’t know if my kids—particularly my daughter—were the catalysts for igniting this defiance in me (I know plenty of childless Americans who are passionate and proud activists), but I do know that during every protest, march, or with every call I make or letter I sign—every time I raise my fist to the sky—it is their faces I see. My daughter, my son.
It is their lives I hope to save, their dreams I hope to salvage from the wrecking ball of the current administration—for they are my purpose, and without them, life has no meaning.