April Practice: Destroy the Lens of Pessimism

Afghan women writing

Hurry: A poem from the Afghan Women's Writing Project

We have such a short time to do this good work,
to forgive each other’s small mistakes,
to pay attention to positive points.
We must practice being good people, and
destroy the lens of pessimism in our eyes,
and see the facts of life.
Why are we born to this world,
and what are our plans for this life?
Are they the destruction or betterment of our world?
I try to smile. I don’t have money, power
or authority, but I have God who gave me
a mouth with lips for smiling, I have language for speaking,
I can use them for good,
to carry messages of peace and love and forgiveness.
I can smile to grow the root of the friendship tree.
We have such short time to do good work.
Let’s hurry.

This poem, by Nasima, comes to us from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, an organization that supports the voices of women with the belief that to tell one’s story is a human right. It was part of “Lessons from Afghanistan: A Curriculum for Exploring Themes of Love and Forgiveness,” a collaborative project of AWWP and the Fetzer Institute.

“These writers have borne not only the burden of bloodshed, but carry with them the stigma of simply being born female in a deeply patriarchal and conservative society,” wrote Richelle McClain to introduce the curriculum. “If these women—who have been abused, beaten, persecuted because of their gender, threatened because they dare to speak their mind or receive an education—can offer love and forgiveness for their tormenters, it compels us to ask ourselves why we can’t forgive lesser evils, the marginal hurts, the brush of a misdeed, the imagined oversight.”

Beyond the difficulty she faces, Nasima sees a choice between contributing to the destruction or betterment of the world. And, despite lacking “money, power or authority,” she views her ability to smile, to speak, and to do good work as a gift from God.

This month, and in celebration of National Poetry Month, we invite you to linger over Nasima’s poem, imagine what gave rise to her plea, “Let’s hurry.” Ponder what she means by “We must practice being good people, and / destroy the lens of pessimism in our eyes….” What personal and spiritual beliefs and experiences shape your worldview? How do you navigate difficulties and transgressions? What is it that drives you to “do good work”?