Half the Sky

Women hold up half the sky – Chinese Proverb

I started reading Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn the other day. Here are a few quotes from the introduction:

This [meticulous] study found that thirty-nine thousand baby girls die annually in China because parents don’t give them the same medical care and attention that boys receive – and that is just in the first year of life.

In India, a “bride-burning” – to punish a woman for an inadequate dowry or to eliminate her so a man can remarry – takes place approximately once every two hours…

…but keep in mind this central truth: Women aren’t the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.

Which brings to mind His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s recent, famous quote:

The world will be saved by western woman.

Talk about a call to action. A call to open our eyes and our hearts to what’s happening in our own backyards as well as around the world. It is a call to step outside of our comfortable (or perhaps not so comfortable) lives and do something, anything, that makes a difference.

There’s a lot of talk these days about charity not being all it’s cracked up to be. It is often misguided, dis-empowering, misused. I prefer to talk about empowerment (still overused, less offensive). How do we empower ourselves, our children, the mentally ill homeless man on the corner, the Cambodian girl who was kidnapped, trafficked and sold into sexual slavery? The answer is different for everyone but I think it starts with being aware. Painfully aware. Beautifully aware. It means living intentionally and recognizing the incongruencies in our lives. Recognizing the places where our actions are out of line with our deepest knowing of ourselves – the knowing that lies underneath thought.

When our days are full of necessary to-do lists – raising children, maintaining relationships, paying the bills, walking the dog – how do we find the time and space for greater good? Is it enough to simply hold the vision, meditate on peace or volunteer once a year to feed the homeless at Thanksgiving?

I believe – I trust – that if we open our hearts to each other and allow ourselves to connect to what resonates for us, we will find our best way to contribute to the world. That if we know ourselves to be connected to everyone else in the world, the flapping of our butterfly wings can create ripple effects felt somewhere.

I don’t have specific answers for anything these days. The more I know, the less I know. I find myself more and more willing to open my heart to the difficult questions. To allow myself to be touched deeply by others while still choosing my own path. In the spirit of love and respect, with a profound desire to be a force for good in the world, I continue to learn, to build community, to meet like-minded souls. I know that by the time I finish this book, I will be a different person. I will be changed by the stories of horror and hope within its 252 pages. I already am. I’m curious about how those changes will manifest. Will I take action immediately? Will I find something new to be passionately committed to? Will I forget, all too quickly, what I thought was so important only days before?

So back to the Dalai Lama’s quote. The world will be saved by western woman.

Really?

Count me in.

You?

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~ by Alana on March 24, 2010.

10 Responses to “Half the Sky”

  1. Wow, I’ve never heard this quote from the DL. Very heavy, yet inspiring. You’ve definitely got me thinking – this post will stay with me all afternoon.

  2. Yep, I’m there too. Still working out the full extent of my part, but I’ve got my feet wet.

    Beautifully written, Alana. Kudos.

  3. Eva – thanks for your comment and for sitting with the thoughts. Let me know what you come up with.

    Emma – oh yeah, that full extent bit. Not sure I’ll know what that is until I take my last breath. I will look forward to watching you wade more deeply into the waters.

  4. Beautiful Alana. It’s so easy to feel lost amongst all of the things that I care about deeply. But you are so right about our butterfly wings creating a ripple effect, we are all connected and each person has something to give. We are not small and insignificant, we are an integral part of the world. I am in, and signed on with all of my heart to making a difference, whatever that means…I’m still figuring it out. But a force for good in the world? Absolutley!

  5. i’m in. i sure am in.

  6. […] make a difference in a way that speaks to us. I wrote more about Half the Sky and its effect on me here. Since I’m already over 1400 words I will leave it at that and encourage you to read it, then […]

  7. […] am reposting what I wrote about it on my original blog, wholeselfcoach, when I began to read it last […]

  8. […] make a difference in a way that speaks to us. I wrote more about Half the Sky and its effect on me here. Since I’m already over 1400 words I will leave it at that and encourage you to read it, then […]

  9. […] read Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky last year. It changed my life. It put things in perspective. It made me want to help in a bigger way. Then Benjamin died and […]

  10. […] am reposting what I wrote about it on my original blog, wholeselfcoach, when I began to read it last […]

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