"You have to work hard to offend Christians. By nature, Christians are the most forgiving, understanding, and thoughtful group of people I've ever dealt with. They never assume the worst. They appreciate the importance of having different perspectives. They're slow to anger, quick to forgive, and almost never make rash judgments or act in anything less than a spirit of total love . . . No, wait--I'm thinking of Labrador retrievers!" David Learn, 1998

Monday, May 9, 2011

My niece in Afghanistan

     I didn't know I have a niece in Afghanistan until today! Lisa is married with four young daughters, a busy veterinarian somewhere in Michigan (I thought). I think I've only met her twice, at family reunions, and I don't remember her ever answering any of my letters to her.
     So when I wrote the whole Reynolds family, my family of origin, about the unveiling of Mum's memorial next month (see posts below), inviting them to consider "going yourself or helping others go to the ceremony." I only tossed Lisa's name into the mix as an afterthought.
     She responded almost right away:

Dear Jessica, I would love to be there with you in Hiroshima, but I am currently in Afghanistan and circumstances are such that I cannot attend. 

You can imagine my astonishment and curiosity! I wrote back, 
Dear Lisa,
I had no idea you were in Afghanistan! That news brings all kinds of questions to my mind--under whose auspices? for what purpose? for how long? Does Ted know? And Naomi? Who is with the girls? What about your practice? If you are free to explain, I would be very interested.
Thanks for writing.
Hey Jessica,
I am here in Southern Afghanistan as an Army Veterinarian.  Mostly I am taking care of the Military Working dogs that are sniffing out the IEDs and unexploded ordinances, but I also am here to support the local Afghan veterinarians and farmers, as we are attempting to stabilize the region and provide the local nationals with the tools to provide for themselves.  There are many many sheep and goats here, plus a few camels running around.  And, I have no idea if dad knows, I think he might.  Mom and Naomi do because when the Tsunami happened, they tried to contact me and eventually figured out why I was not answering my cell phone.  The Reynolds side of the family is pretty anti military so I don't go around talking about what I do much.
But, I am envious of you as I would love to go to Hiroshima and be part of the history.

I think what you're doing is amazing! I was just reading about Army dogs online, including a photo essay by Rebecca Frankel. We will be praying for your safety and the safety of those (human and otherwise) with whom you are working. Is it okay if I let Ted know? He was telling me he hadn't heard much from you and he sounded kind of deflated about that. I can't imagine he wouldn't be proud of you.

Wow.  That just goes to show that one should never make assumptions.  I didn't think you would be supportive.  Thank you.  You are welcome to tell Dad.  The one time we did discuss my going to Afghanistan, he said that I was supporting an invading Army and the conversation kinda stalled out about then.  I do love him lots and I am sad he feels that way.  I feel he doesn't understand what we are doing here and doesn't want to hear my perspective.  Hell, I'm not sure I understand what we are doing here.  But the Army has learned that the only way to defeat terrorism is to stabilize those areas of the world that are unstable, so that people have choices and the oportunity to do the right thing.  It is the poverty and the hunger and the lack of education that permits Al Queda and other extremist organizations to florish.  Most of the insurgents that are being taken out here are just local farmers that get paid by the Taliban $10/mortor round they fire at us.  Killing them doesn't stop the number of hungry farmers that need $10 to feed their children.  Introducing poutry and aquaculture industries, replacing Poppy production with Safron fields, promoting improvements to the agriculture and food animal industries, these things may help those farmers not chose to take that $10 offer.  I think sometimes we do a better job than other times at accomplishing that goal, but the stability operations and nation building is a huge focus now and we hear about it every day.  Gosh, did I just get on a soap box or something?  Well, it is midnight here so I am going to crawl into bed.  Take care and have a WONDERFUL time in Hiroshima.

Since I had her permission I forwarded this correspondence to her father, my brother Ted. Under the subject heading, "Friends again?" Ted immediately wrote to her, with a copy to me,  
Dear Lisa,
I've gotten along with Jessica for decades by not arguing with her about religion.  Think you and I could work out a similar modus vivendi?  I love you and miss you, respect what you are doing, and think that's more important than any difference of opinion.
Please stay in touch.

Have you done much with camels yet?

All of this happened today.
Mum was a woman who loved reconciliations and restorations of relationship. She would be thrilled to know that the invitation to the dedication of a monument in her honor would have reconciled her son with his daughter and her granddaughter with her aunt.   

1 comment:

  1. What an incredibly moving story.
    I am so happy for both of them.
    And kudos to you for facilitating it.