The hand that rocks the world rules the cradle

Everyone’s heard the adage “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.” It’s sentimental, poignant and tender. This Sunday being Mother’s Day, it’s even appropriate. But two unexpected phone calls, two situations, two years apart, shifted my focus to different hands.

Monday morning my cell phone rang.

“Hey, Karen.” Dad’s tone sent chills down my spine. “Matthew just called, and he’s heading in to surgery so you need to pray.”

Surgery? My brother didn’t have any health problems. Why surgery?

On Saturday, my dad explained, Matthew was inspecting the site of a medical clinic and school being built by his Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Afghanistan when the Taliban attacked. The two-hour standoff resulted in several injuries and ended only by an air strike. During the attack, severe burns on my brother’s right hand fused his skin, muscles and nerves. A day-and-a-half later, Matthew’s turn in the surgery line demanded general anesthesia, vice grips, forceps and tweezers to realign the elements so that his fingers would separate and hopefully function in the future.

When Matthew applied to head up a PRT in Afghanistan after serving as a Lieutenant on a nuclear submarine in Guam and teaching chemistry and physics at the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Rhode Island, my family feared for his safety. Would he die in hostile fire? Could he withstand the worms and malaria? How long might he manage to survive IEDs killing contractors on his team?

But Matthew valued his work in Afghanistan so highly that he decided to “re-up” for another term.

After giving a stuffed animal to a girl who lost her fingers, dad and brother in a Taliban assault, building schools, medical centers and bridges for rural mountain villages, re-bandaging a local boy’s arm and finding it severed, witnessing one-on-one to a PRT member here or a native there, teaching locals to make real homes, not mud huts that wash away with every thunderstorm, and speaking hope into the souls of a formerly autonomous people terrorized by the reign of a cruel foreign power known as the Taliban; Matthew views his mission less like a commander and more like an agent of change.

He, along with thousands of other American guys and gals, offer new life to a jeopardized population in the Middle East.

Because of Matthew, my mom transformed from being a proud mother to being a surrogate grandmother of village boys and girls in Afghanistan. Today, military mothers like mine must be honored for their selfless love enabling their children to selflessly love other mothers’ children. Our American soldiers are children of the cradle, rocking the world.

Wednesday, May 3, 2006, my cell phone rang.

“Karen.” Kathy’s sobs gripped my heart with fear. “I just got a letter from my daughter, and you need to pray.”

Daughter? My 50-something single on-the-go friend didn’t have kids. What daughter?

Kathy explained that as an 18-year-old in college she gave her virginity to her hunk of a boyfriend and ended up pregnant. But in 1968, parenting was not an option and back-alley abortion was dangerous, so her dad shipped her off to another city until she could give birth and sign the baby over to the state. Those months of vomit, hormones, fear and isolation burned shame in Kathy’s heart as indelibly as a lamb being branded before turned out to the prairie.

“It doesn’t heal,” she said. “It festers.”

At first, thoughts about her girl plagued Kathy daily. Whose nose did she have? Did she get adopted before her first Christmas? Would her new dad abuse her? What grades did she get on her report cards in second grade?

Unable to cope, Kathy buried her deep secret in the darkest recesses of her mind. She never spoke of her daughter to anyone. Life went on. She slept with all the wrong guys and stored marijuana in her freezer. Then she met Jesus and drank Living Water instead of alcohol. She joined a church, succeeded as a tax accountant, did street evangelism and kept her secret hidden.

But one day, Kathy’s blood ran cold.

The tulips scented the air by the curbside mailbox as Kathy thumbed through the bills, sale flyers, AARP mailing and the strange envelope. She slit it open. Handwriting. Unfolding the letter, one word caught her attention: “Mother.”

Shock, incredulity, anger, fear, excitement, abandonment, remorse, awe and embarrassment washed over Kathy in waves. Kleenex boxes quickly emptied as Kathy read, “I honor you and want to thank you for making the decision to give me life and not terminating me.”

Because of RachelAnne, Kathy went from being a hidden mom to a proud grandma of Samuel, Sarah and Jonah. Today, Kathy is honored because her selfless love enabled her child to selflessly love another’s children. The adopted-daughter-turned-pastor’s-wife-and-paramedic is a child of the cradle, rocking the world.

No matter your position on the war or politics, I think we can agree with the Taliban and the devil: redeeming Afghanistan and college pregnancy rocks the world. One person’s decision to rock the world can change future generations.

Voila! The hand that rocks the world rules the cradle.

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