My eyes opened and I was in this room.
It was dark but warm and it smelled of burning wax. It was quiet. It was calm. There was an altar, or what I think was an altar. It was surrounded by candlelight. As I approached it I could see that the candles were being held by people, by women.
All colors. All creeds. All ages. All shapes. Women.
I don't know how many of them were there, thousands maybe, but it seemed endless.
Their eyes held stories but they didn't speak until I saw them. They didn't share until I asked. They didn't give until they knew I was listening...
The first one spoke her voice shaking;
"I can't have children. So forgive me if I don't understand your right to choose. Because it doesn't feel like that choice was given to me."
I nodded. I didn't know what to say. I'm sorry, I thought. Because I just thought you were trying to take away my rights.
This woman looked familiar;
"I used to go to church. I never felt like I fit in. And if I don't fit into the Kingdom of God then where the hell do I fit in?"
I get that.
Another woman spoke in Spanish;
"My ten year old daughter is smart. She is funny and wise and I know she will do amazing things with her life. I just won't get to see them. I wasn't born here so I'm told I don't belong here. I leave tomorrow."
I started to cry and want my mother...
"I don't believe in God...but I hope he believes in me."
I wanted to tell her I think he does...but it didn't seem like the right time...
"I am in love. I want to raise children. I want to have a home and build a life. They make me feel alive, important...smart. But you tell me I can't marry her."
I have told you that before. I didn't understand.
"I don't want to screw up my kids."
"I pray everyday. But because you don't understand my language this prayer scares you. I wish you knew I was asking for grace."
I will remember this.
One after another begin speaking now;
"I get one thousand and one dirty looks from all of you. I'm too young. I'm too stupid. I wasn't careful. But not one of you has commended me for keeping this baby. Isn't that what you stand for? Tell me I am brave, just once."
You are right. You are brave.
"I love Jesus. And I love people too. And dammit I am just trying to do the right thing."
"My husband had an affair 22 years ago but the world won't let ME forget it."
And I have joked about it.
"This is my last pill. And I am scared. Because you showed me you didn't care if I had health care or not."
I wasn't thinking about you. I was thinking about me.
"I am not a racist cop."
I'll stop watching the news.
"I have a disability and everyone wants to be my hero."
"The scars on my wrist don't hurt anymore. I am healed."
Then maybe I can be too.
"I've been touched when I didn't want to be touched."
"Someone asked me how I got here. Did I swim or did I climb? And that their new president is going to make me leave. What the hell."
What the hell.
"I cannot believe that I even have to tell you that my life matters."
These were just the ones I remembered. So many of them spoke. Some said the same thing, actually most of them said the same things. Similar but personal. Intertwined, tangled up, threaded like a tapestry of pain and joy, love and hate, goodness, and intent. Strength.
The Women in the room. They saw that they needed each other.
They saw what they had to fight for. So they stopped fighting each other.
They saw the love that they needed. So they started spreading it around.
They asked me of my story...
I took a breathe and said;
"I grew up never questioning anything. Now that I am grown I question everything."
They said that now my eyes are open. You cannot stand without understanding. And all passion is empty without compassion.
I am awake now.
And God, don't let me stay the same.