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Thursday, February 24, 2011

Can Protesting for Children's Rights Lead to True Love?

        Since my twin sister, aspiring writer Sandra Hughes, wrote about when she met her husband, I was inspired to write a short narrative about how I met mine. Instead, I wrote a long one. I hope you still enjoy it!

        I am not the protest-rally-attending-kind. But in the Spring of 2006, when I heard about children being kidnapped and impressed into service by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) in Uganda, and that an organization, Invisible Children, had done a documentary on these crimes and were holding rallies to promote awareness for the children, I felt I had to attend. These rallies were called the “Global Night Commute.” You see, the children in rural parts of Uganda were walking into the city centers every night to sleep, under armed guard in public places so they would not be stolen from their homes. Every morning, before dawn, they would begin walking to school. This was their daily existence in 2006. If they were still unlucky enough to be captured, many were killed in front of the others as an example and taught to be ruthless killing machines. If, by some chance they escaped, they were still considered enemies of the state and could be killed for being traitors. Because Uganda doesn’t have natural resources important to the United States, however, or most other developed nations, not much was being done to assist these children and their families while Uganda continued its civil war.

          So Invisible Children asked us to “lie down” in protest in city centers as a show of solidarity with these kids, and let our governments know their welfare was important to us. A lot of my friends from California Baptist University (CBU), where I got my Bachelor’s degree, were attending the event in San Diego, so even though there was one being held in Bakersfield, my friend Tiffany and I jaunted down to the event in Balboa Park in San Diego to join the group my friend Melissa had organized. Trying to take the time off was difficult, and I almost didn’t go, but I felt compelled to be apart of rescuing and making a better life for these children.

This picture wasn't actually taken in San Diego, but this is what it looked like!

So Tiffany and I made the trek down to San Diego (a beautiful and awesome city, if you have never been), sleeping bags in tow, prepared for sleeping out in the park with thousands of other people all dedicated to the same cause. It was a very exciting time. The weather was beautiful (it’s San Diego!) and I got to see friends I hadn’t seen much since I graduated in 2005. We met in the shadow of a large palm tree with about 10 other folks who were alumni or still students of our university. Among the group, was a guy named Dave, who I had briefly met while we were both students at CBU. I thought he was only about 18 or 19 because he started there my senior year. I was already a wise 22-year old by that time, much older than him, for sure! I also thought that he and Melissa, who he had been very close friends with at CBU, were probably dating by now. I asked her about it privately, and she laughed and said they were just friends. He started talking to me, and I didn’t think much of it, because spirits were high and we were all chatting and laughing at each other’s jokes. He told me later, he can’t remember what I said, but after we had been talking for a few minutes, I said something funny and witty that made him think, I am going to marry this girl.

At this point, I am going to back up to tell you that I had pretty well decided I was done with relationships. What my few years on this planet had taught me is that in relationships, someone always gets hurt. Usually, it wasn’t me, it was the guy. I had been in very few long relationships, because I would start dating a guy, realize it was a mistake, break up with him, and leave him angry and hurt because he thought we really had something going. I had decided even first dates were risky because Christian boys are very keen on commitment (we believe in celibacy before marriage, so this is understandable) and by the time they are in their mid-20’s, they want to get pretty serious, pretty fast. So even a first date was a “big deal” and I felt like I was continually breaking up with boys before we were even officially dating. I felt like a heel all the time for breaking their hearts and had decided to just stop trying to meet someone because it would just be another person to break up with, another situation for me to make a mistake and be wrong and add another scalp to my belt. At 22, I had had enough.

With this mindset, I did not dress cute for the event; I dressed for sleeping in a park with thousands of people. I had these old, huge cream pajamas, patterned with giant pieces of chocolate, and an old blue T-shirt that I wore to the event. I wasn’t wearing any makeup and hadn’t done my hair. It was clear, I felt, that I was not trying to get any come-ons.

So, when this boy at the Global Night Commute started talking to me, I wasn’t trying to get his attention or flirt with him, I was just being my goofy, playful, crazy self- especially since I thought he was 18! In the course of conversation, however, I found out he was a transfer student- he was actually 25. He got cuter at this point! But I was not holding out hope for a future. This sort of thing had happened before, and somebody was going to get hurt. So we talked and laughed until 3 or 4 in the morning, and then everybody went to sleep. Before I walked off to settle down on my side of the tree, he patted my head to say goodnight, it was pretty sweet. He came over to my side of the tree in the morning to say “Good morning.” I found out from him later he wanted to know what I looked like when I woke up in the morning. He said I looked beautiful and he was even more sold on marrying me. As the event wrapped up, he took out his phone and nervously said, “Give me your number- I mean, can I have your number?” I almost said something to him about “demanding” my number, but I didn’t because I could tell he was nervous, probably because he didn’t want to come across like he was hitting on me (Turns out he was nervous, because he had never asked a girl for his number before). I felt ambivalent about giving him my number, and told myself he was getting all his new friends’ numbers, of course, he was just a friendly guy (he didn’t get anyone else’s number). I gave him my number, and, unsure of how to say goodbye, gave him a hug and said, “Bye, new friend.” After he left, Tiffany and I explored Balboa Park, and she asked me about what was going on with my “new friend.” I told her he seemed sweet, but that was all I would say. I was at cross-purposes with myself. First I told myself it was nothing, and then I found thinking about him and bringing him up again. When I got home, my mother, always a romantic, asked me if I met anyone. At first I told her, no, of course not. But I kept posted on Melissa’s Myspace that it was good meeting everyone, and tried to find out if he had a Myspace as well to make sure we stayed in contact. I kept checking my phone, but after two days, he hadn’t called or left me a text or anything. I finally told my mom, “okay, I kind of met someone, but he hasn’t called me, so I guess it really was nothing.” I was pretty disappointed and told myself, See, you knew it was nothing. That afternoon, half an hour after the conversation with my mother, I got a text, saying, “How are things in the armpit of California?” (If you have ever been to Bakersfield this will make sense to you). I got very excited, and I knew it had to be him because he had teased me about my hometown at the rally. I played it cool. “Great,” I responded “Who is this?” Like I didn’t know!!! Soon we were talking on the phone late into the night and I figured out he wasn’t just wanting to be friends.

Still, I hesitated. I had been down this road before, and I knew the more serious it got, the harder they fell. Sure, everything seemed great, but when was the other shoe going to drop? How long would it be until I had to scalp another one? But we started talking late into the night every night, until 2 or 3 in the morning, and there was just something about him! He was deep, but also funny, goal-oriented, a strong believer, and didn’t bend on his values. He was…substantial, not like a lot of the guys I had been around. Dave was Dave, without excuses or putting on a façade. I had never talked to anyone so honest, true, and strong, or with whom I could be so transparent. We didn’t agree on everything (especially Pizza, he hates pepperoni) but, that was okay. And he had such high regard for me- it seemed like for the first time, I met someone who was actually interested in me, not in what I could offer or what criteria I met.

But here was the kicker- he was living in Riverside and I lived in Bakersfield. We were three hours and two mountain ranges apart! Talking on the phone was one thing, but making things work long distance seemed daunting. Also, I was beginning my Master’s Program at CSUB and I knew I had another 2 long years left. I explained this to him and that I wasn’t willing make any kind of serious commitment, to anyone, until I finished school. Despite all this, after 3 weeks, I was sure I was going to marry him. At least I was sure of this from 2:30-3:00am, long enough to proclaim it in my journal and feel embarrassed about it after a few hours of sleep.

Our first official “date” was in May of 2006, a month after we met at the Global Night Commute. Dave was turning 26, and I agreed to come down to CBU for the weekend, where I still had a friend on campus, Anissa, who would let me stay at her place. I was so nervous, I could hardly drive. I had only met this boy once, and I was going down to see him, instead of the proper way around, which was him coming to see me, and we were going to spend the majority of two days together. What if this is a mistake? I thought. I know this is a mistake. And when I arrived, it sure felt like one. That first night was incredibly awkward. I hardly remembered what he looked like, and all those glorious conversations we had had over the phone seemed like the conversations of strangers. He was quieter in person, and so was I. Neither of us knew what to say over dinner, and I sat as far away from him as possible in the truck during the drive-in movie (which was Mission Impossible 3, ironically enough). I was kicking myself inwardly the whole time for making such a mistake- things just felt wrong!!! After the movie he hoped to talk a little more, but I told him I was tired and had him take me directly to Anissa’s apartment. I don’t remember if I hugged him goodnight, but it was definitely one of the most awkward doorstep moments ever. When I got inside, my mind reeled. This whole thing felt like a mistake, I didn’t know what to do, and I still had to spend the next day with him! I went to sleep trying not to think about the next day.

When I woke up, I was still frantic, sure this was going to end in disaster, and blaming myself for getting into this situation again. I thought the best course of action would be to tell him right now that this was a mistake and to just drive home and try to do whatever damage control I could. But before I resolved to go through with this plan, I prayed a desperate prayer. I prayed, Lord, I am so scared and I don’t know whether to stay or go. If I stay, I’ll make things worse, but if I go, I could miss out on something that could be here. Please, please tell me what to do.” If you have a personal relationship with Christ, then you may know that sometimes He gives you a direct answer right then and there. In my head, I heard Him say, Wait. Don’t do anything right now. Just wait. So, I decided not to do anything until I saw Dave again. That morning, he came and picked me up, and I looked at him, and he smiled at me, and suddenly, I felt hopeful. Here was a nice, trustworthy guy who wanted to spend the day with me. He wasn’t scary. Let’s try this again, I thought. The rest of the weekend was really nice, and I went home confused, bewildered, but a little more willing to see this thing through. The awkwardness of the distance faded over time, and the rest, as they say, is history. We were married on December 20th, 2008, and we just celebrated our two year anniversary. For Dave, it was love at first sight. For me, it took a little longer (it was a year before I knew I was going to marry him). Just goes to show you, true love charts its own path, and once you’ve found it, a little thing like 3 hours distance and initial awkwardness just can’t get in the way.


*Pictures of event courtesy of wikipedia's article entitled: Global Night Commute

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