If you had asked thirteen year old Dianna where she thought she'd be at 23 or 24, you likely would have gotten the typical response of "married, being an awesome rich lawyer somewhere, and ready to have kids." No kidding, I seriously thought I would graduate from college, get through law school in two years, and somehow have a sustained and happy marriage by that point in my life. I wanted to be "The Rainmaker" - yes, the one from John Grisham. It wasn't so much taking a case fighting for the little guy, but rather gaining the fame that would come with a big verdict like the one in the book.
Though by the time I had hit my junior year of high school, the details of this dream had changed - I no longer wanted to be a lawyer, but I wanted to be in law somehow. I thought "political pundit" would be nice. I could be the next Tucker Carlson, complete with an androgynous bow tie. The end goal, however I did it, was to become famous by 30. I wanted to be known by people; I wanted to be recognized on the street and have people take pictures with me. I wanted to be one of the "elite."
Never did it cross my mind that I wouldn't be well known by the time I was 25. I felt a sort of destiny about it - a sense that "this is what God wanted for me." As I grew older, the dream grew smaller - well, even if I'm not a movie star, I could still become a great writer. I'll write a screenplay! Or a book! To some extent, I still hold on to the latter half of that dream, but only partially.
I've come to realize that I've been dreaming in the wrong direction. The goal in life should not be to become famous - fame corrupts, as the recent Balloon Boy saga should highlight, quite obviously. It causes people make stupid decisions, just so that they would be known by others. Honestly, Falcon's dad probably doesn't care that he's getting prosecuted now because he and his family were the focus of the nation for two whole hours! The Heene family is known by most of the households in America. He got what he wanted: Fame.
The dream of 1999 Dianna and 2009 Mr. Heene are essentially the same: to be known and cared about by strangers. In particularly self referential works of art we see this idea highlighted over and over again -- movies like "Fame," and "Chicago," social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are all about marketing yourself, making yours the name on everyone's lips. It's a particular quirk of modern culture.
We don't want to die unknown; we want to known that someone was affected by us, even if it's in a negative way.
We ALL want to effect a change.
Think about that for a minute: Hold that statement in your mind and let it sit for awhile. Maybe go drink a cup of tea and come back to read what I have to say next.
What if we decided to turn that around? What if we decide that in changing others, we don't care whether or not they know our names, whether or not they even know who caused the change? What if we decide, in donating money to build a new wing of a hospital or in making a law, that we don't need to have our names on it? I wonder, if we removed the possibility of fame attached to charity, how charity would be different.
What if, instead of seeking merely to be known by others, we chose to give others an identity? What if we chose, instead of merely throwing money at a problem and letting someone else deal with it, we actually traveled to that place, met the people there for ourselves, and learned their names? What if we knew that the homeless man sitting outside the local coffee shop is a war veteran who is now living in a motel down by the road, and is being kicked out of every place he asks for money to pay the hotel bill and get food?
What if, in creating art, in writing that song or that essay, our goal was not that people would be impressed by the author, but instead by the Creator? What if we simply focused on pointing others to Truth, not caring if they know who did it?
In trying to truly love my neighbor, I have realized that it means allowing myself to be anonymous, allowing the other person to take precedence over my own desire to be known, and realizing that I am known by the only one who matters.
You cannot love your neighbor if you are the only one with a name, and you cannot worship in community if you don't care to know the community around you.
*Title from "Ulysses" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
In India specific news, I am down to the last on the checklist of things I had to do before my trip, and it is one that will take some arranging - I have to get my immunizations. You also may have noticed in the fundraising thermometer that I'm finally halfway paid for the trip, which was my goal! Thank you! I am, of course, still accepting donations, and the photobook offer still stands, but I'm stoked to see how God has provided for me through you, my faithful readers. Thank you for enabling me, your humble narrator, to go into the world and speak Truth to those who need to hear it, and give identity to the nameless and faceless.