Skip to main content

Go There vs. Stay Here

Some definitions from

Go there”- Do something drastic
Oh no, don’t make me go there.

Stay”- To constantly or consistently do something.
I stayed at home on Saturday.
-To live in one place, even if it’s at home with your parents for your whole life.
Where do you stay?

I came across a piece of poetry a few years ago that really stirred something up in me. The poem was called “Ale La” or “Go There” in English. It was originally written in Creole by a Haitian editor and poet named Totongi. At first, I hated the usage of words like “bigwigs, corn and oranges.” But after reading through it a few times, I couldn’t get the phrases out of my head.

Here it is in all of its full and strange glory:

“Ale la”: GO THERE

Go there where you see your heart
Leading you, keeping you from changing
into a dry desert of sorrow
worse than the skin of a drum.
Go there even when you’re discouraged
when you end up as salt meat
in banquets for bigwigs.
You have to go there, my brothers and sisters,
Where the people suffering
Never hear “Good Morning”
Where there’s no light
To enliven a day with hope.
Go there and bring the warmth of your love along
To make the people’s heart happy
To defy injustice and evil
Endured by the wretched of the earth
As if they had no right to be there,
There in the morning splendor of being alive.
You have to go there, live there, join us
If only with the little smiles of your mouths
O my sisters and brothers, we have to be there
Where together, without any dirty tricks,
We can grow corn, oranges and friendship
For all of us on earth so in need of transformation.

(By Totongi, editor of the important journal Tanbou/Tambour. He lives in the Boston area where he writes in Creole, French and English)

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about the difference between “Going there” and “Staying here.” I know. That seems like a silly thing to think about. But, what I mean is that I have been thinking about where my “heart is leading me, keeping me from changing into a dry dessert of sorrow.” While to some that might mean a physical place, for me it really means an emotional place. My heart has been “leading me” to care more deeply for others, to focus on serving and encouraging people, to get my eyes off of my own belly button. It got really easy over the past few years to care for myself first and others second. Somehow, somewhere, the idea that I needed to take care of myself because no one else would snuck its sneaky way deep into my heart. I wallowed in my own fragility. But, that way of thinking only led me further into a deep “desert of sorrow.” Yeah, I know, you are sick of this poem already.

I began to think of other times and places where I have been inspired to care for others more than myself. Haiti, Brazil, Uganda, ect… flashed before my eyes in quick succession. Little babies, children, mothers and fathers who live in unimaginable poverty yet still give with outrageous generosity. The daily love I have received from my parents, brothers, and dear friends suddenly became one of the most important things to ever happen to me. Although I love them imperfectly, they still continue to say things like, “You are doing a good job.” Or, “Hey, you look like you need a hug.” I have been hit by the realization that I have enough. I need to give more often. Even on the days when I feel most needy and desperate I have noticed that I still have something to give whether I want to or not.

So, you see. I cannot stay here. I cannot live in one place my whole life. I have to do something drastic. “Don’t make me go there.” Actually, yes. Please do make me go there. Don’t let me stay here. Because this earth is SO badly in need of transformation, and I do not see any other way to transform than to systematically start breaking out of the bubble wrap that surrounds me. Fragility be damned. I have enough to do something.


Popular posts from this blog

We Must Weep

A few weeks ago the darkness took over the sky. Now, anytime after 3pm, you can feel the downward pull of gravity telling you to sink into your bones.The same week that the sky became dark in Massachusetts, the temperatures dropped and the dread of winter became a talking point in day-to-day conversation. People here have not recovered from the winter of 2015 when snow piled 9 feet high in the span of 6 weeks. There is a tension in their voice when they talk about shoveling and being stuck indoors.

I love the fall. I love the change of the sky to clear blue when the air becomes dry. I love the colors of the leaves and the quiet rain. But, this fall has not been restful but restless for me. Under the trees laden with wet leaves I have not found peace and quiet, but a silent roar of anger. It is too soon. Not enough. I am not ready.
I can feel the vertigo of my sadness. Do not let anyone tell you that grief is not a physical process. Our bodies will tell us so many things if we l…

Don’t Tell the Other Moms

Mother’s Day 2018, I am in bed in my pajamas, drinking a semi-cooled cup of coffee from a llama mug, playing solitaire, completely alone in my house.

My husband and toddler went to church, without me. And, right after they left (because I am very holy and sanctified) I turned on the new Ali Wong special and laughed so hard that I sneezed 4 times in a row and then cried.

I did have a fleeting thought questioning if I should watch the comedy special or maybe do something- I don’t know- more reflective. But, here’s the thing. I’ve been doing a lot of work with the Enneagram lately, and as a part of this work I signed up to get daily reminders to check my inner thoughts/fears/motivations. So I get daily emails that remind me to let go of the need to prove my “worthiness” to others.

Today I woke up with a scratchy throat and achy body. Is this seasonal allergies or the beginning of a cold? I’m not sure. Also, yesterday we had a lot of people over. Plus, work has been a major crazy train f…

Grandma Penny and "This Love"

Grandma Penny is not my Grandma. But she is grandmother to several of my dear friends and great-grandmother to baby Lester, who calls me Tia, so that makes me feel as though we are related. On a deeper level, Grandma Penny is also a kind of spiritual grandmother. She and her husband led a Bible study that my parents went to when they were young, and so many of my memories of going to church growing up have her in the background with her hands raised and head bowed. We love so many of the same people, and, for so long, I have watched her love the same God.

Last November we were at baby Lester’s first birthday party, and there were many conversations swirling through the air. I had just come from the kitchen with my plate of food and sat down in a likely, out-of-the-way corner of the room. I was ready to eat quietly and watch all the people for a little bit when Grandma Penny suddenly reached across the inches of blue carpet that separated us and put her hand on my knee.
“How is your …