I honestly have no idea what brought Brooke Fraser to mind. But for some reason, I found myself looking up her music this morning, adding “Albertine” to my offline music downloads. And tripping out on the realization that album is ten years old. (Almost eleven!) Released in 2007 and tied to some memories that I can recall better than I can remember last week.
I was living in Australia back then. And part of the church that she was part of. And I remember her playing a song off the new album during a service – just her and her guitar. And I remember thinking “Hmm. I wonder what it’ll sound like when it’s done.” And then experiencing the done version with a full band and video backing at the women’s conference that year. And being blown away. It was an exquisitely well-produced experience of a great song from a great album. An album named after a Rwandan orphan Brooke had met in her travels… her Compassion child, was it? I can’t remember that part clearly and I may be mixing up Hillsong sponsored things. Anyway, as that song (track #5 on the album) started to play this morning, I remembered the origin story of the song and I felt a flash of panic. This is a song written ten years ago about a Rwandan orphan, by a white Kiwi-slash-honorary-Australian, wonderful and easy-going people who are not particularly known for their racial sensitivity. So I braced myself for the possibility of losing another thing in the fire of “well that didn’t age well”. But it was fine. Still a moving call to action. Which made me sad in a different way.
“Now that I have seen, I am responsible.
Faith without deeds is dead.”
That’s the hook and the primary message of “Albertine” – Responsibility. Once the excuse of not knowing is stripped away, deeds are proof. Of sight. Of growth. Of change. Of life. Brooke had seen the aftermath of the genocide that had taken place in Rwanda, some ten years before her visit, and felt the weight of the storyteller: to tell the story. And so she did. And she wasn’t the only one, there was a lot of concerted effort at that time to help the people of Rwanda, to rally the world to restore hope there. And God bless everyone who took part. Who took on bits of the responsibility. But I do remember a quiet question being asked from quiet corners: What about the Aborigines? There was an undercurrent of cynicism about the willingness of so many Australians to restore hope in Rwanda in the light of their unwillingness to confront the harm done in their own country. And as an outsider with no skin in either game – Rwanda or Australia – I kind of felt like help is help and a rising tide lifts all boats and all in good time. And all of that. I understood where the murmurs were coming from and I got it, but I didn’t get it.
Now I do.
Do you know what the best kind of responsibility is? The optional kind. The ones what we don’t actually have to do. The “extra mile” things. It’s the difference between arriving on the scene to pour hope on another country vs. stepping into the messy issues of your own history to extract justice. The difference between being a hero and being here. But if we’re honest, we’d all much rather be heroes, because it’s hard to be here.
Which is why listening to “Albertine” made me sad today. Because I know a lot of heroes. Compassion photos of brown kids worlds away decorate many a fridge in my world and it wasn’t that long ago that practically every birthday I knew of was being donated to Charity:Water… I know a lot of very helpful people, good people doing good things: Heroes. Who are absolutely useless here. Who would rather talk about it, than actually be about it. Because they think talking is actually something. And in this climate, yes: saying Black Lives Matter is better than nothing. But actions still speak louder than words. And to say Black Lives Matter, but continually only hire white folks… guess what? Your “better than nothing” is actually just nothing wearing some trendy merch.
I got this text the other day and I wish I could say that it stopped me in my tracks, but what it actually did was remind me that I haven’t actually been making any lately. I’ve been quiet. And getting quieter. And some of that has been good. I’ve been able to step back and reassess a lot of the noise I’ve surrounded myself with and some of the old favorites – Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat – got cut from the playlist. Quite possibly forever. (jk about Snapchat. It was NEVER a favorite.) And a lot of my own words have been coming back to haunt me. To remind me how long I’ve left them lingering in limbo. Out of my mind, but not yet in your sight where maybe… just maybe they could help you see something. Something that might just make you say, “Now that I have seen, I am responsible…”
And so with that in mind, I’m definitely letting go of this blog. “SingularShe” started as “The Miss League” which was started as a safe place for single women to grapple with being single. And I’ve struggled to write consistently for it for the past year and some change because my grappling has changed. My conclusion on my singleness is this: It is what it is. But more importantly, what it’s not is a punishment or an indicator of worth or sign of personal deficiency. It just is what it is. And until it changes, there is nothing I can do about it other than do everything I can to be the best, most whole, most honest and authentic version of me – good, bad and ugly – not for some man, but for myself and for everybody else. Which means I have to see these other grapples through – the ones between my faith and my religion, my race and my nation, and those places where the failures of my religion and my nation in regards to my race are not matching up with my faith. It is messy stuff. And I love it. It’s what I’m here for. But it’s not exactly what you, reader of this particular blog, signed up for, so… I have to let this go.
My thought right now is that the SingularShe will officially end as what it was originally going to be when I wrote its first words: a book. I’ll finish going through all the old posts and compile the best, brightest and most relevant of them and throw that bad boy on Amazon for whosoeverwill.
And operating under the assumption that my friend is right and the world does need my voice, I’ll be working on speaking up in the ways that I can: through scripts and songs and scripts full of songs. Some of which are going to ruffle feathers. (Some of which already have. #SAINTS.) But I have to do it. Because I’ve seen too much. And I don’t think that was by accident. I have stories to tell and like Brooke Fraser, surveying the aftermath of ten years time, I feel the weight of the storyteller. To tell the story. Because now that I have seen, I am responsible.
And faith without deeds is dead.
So that’s that. Hit me up in the comments or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org) to let me know if you’ve got any favorite posts you’d like to see in the book. (Or most definitely don’t want to see.) And please don’t think things between us have to be over forever – we can still kick it, you can find me at JaniceLagata.com and spoiler alert: there are already a few warm up posts over there…