A river of tears turns into a river of life

This Sunday morning in Yogyakarta, the power of SALT is at work. For 45 minutes, participants stand in a circle to share their reflections from the visits we had made to three communities: Vesta, a community of men having sex with men, Kebaya a community of transgender persons who welcome their friends of all ages, many of them living with HIV and AIDS and Bunga Seroja, a community of sex workers. On surface, the day consisted in a perfectly organized ballet of visits. But after a few minutes of sharing it became clear that for many of us that day might become as one that changed our lives.

Risya opens the floodgates right from the beginning of the session. She reflects on her visit to Kebaya. They come from all over the country to seek support and shelter. “I didn’t sleep well last night. When we asked what our transgender hosts were doing to pay for the food for their friends, one older Ibu stated, -well, once a week I still go out and sell sex.” Risya breaks into tears: “We at Indocompetence pride ourselves with the little volunteering we do. This is nothing compared with the solidarity of this transgender community.”

“Are we all human?” On Friday, we had taken quite lightly the exploration of the question. It all seemed so straightforward: We are human because we seek respect. We are human because we seek to relate to each other…... Just one day of community visits makes us realize the depth of that question. One after the other, participants tell how amazed they are at the strengths of the communities they visited. How they shed layers of prejudice in just a few hours. How they had to unlearn their usual approach to communities, as teachers and preachers. Many people cry as they talk. Many do as they listen. Tears roll off my own eyes. I am peaceful, deeply happy. I witness once again how communities transform those visitors who decide to learn from the experience of people who are different. This is when we begin to touch our common humanity.

Ibu Johanna now takes the floor for the first time in front of the group. Johanna comes from Papua. The emotion mounts as she speaks. “I am a government officer and I have never been as close with the community as yesterday. When I saw that in Yogya communities are using their own strengths to address the serious challenges they are facing, my thoughts went to the people of Papua. I realized that we too have strengths! Please help us reveal those strengths!” As her wail comes from the deepest of her soul and fills the room, a river of tears flows from the eyes of most participants. Johanna takes a seat and sobs profusely. We stand in silence for a long while and give Johanna time to recover.
“Our tears neither reflect sadness nor pity. They reflect growth”, says Risya in her short conclusion.

Was this SALT visit just an ephemeral moment of insight or will it have a lasting impact on our lives? The answer is within us. To turn that one day into a truly life changing experience once back home, let us team up with friends and maintain our SALT practice in our immediate environment. Then, but only then, the river of tears will turn into a river of life.

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Comment by Jean-Louis Lamboray on April 9, 2012 at 9:20pm

Many thanks for  the great news! 

Comment by Dewi Rahmadania on April 9, 2012 at 10:38am

Last week we meet Ibu Henny from Merauke.,she share a story that now Ibu Johana already want to take part in every activity.,she learn so much from the Salt Visit in Jogja, now she can see that every one is a  human .,Also Ibu Lilik.,before they go to Jogja , they are so quite in the office but now they have confident to share what they learn in  Jogja..,

and the impact from salt visit.,now Ibu Dao Songsaeng give monthly support for our friends in Kebaya. Ibu Rully  feel so so happy and touched when i called and tell her that Ibu Dao want to help and give support for Monthly meeting, she almost cried and say thank you a milion times. impact of Salt Visit not only they say but they do something.,thaks to Ibu Dao..,

Comment by Olivia Munoru on March 2, 2012 at 5:11pm

The power of appreciating strengths is remarkable indeed. How does one walk away unchanged from such an encounter?  Sometimes we experience meaningful moments, but they are fleeting. Like a nice movie, we cry, we walk away and we get on with our lives in the usual way. This, for me, and for others it seems, is not the case with SALT. We experience and we change. Why is this? Is it because it makes us turn and look at ourselves in a new way? Is it because we begin to appreciate our OWN strengths? I still don't know but I am enjoying finding out. Loved your blog. Feel like I was there with you....

Comment by wiwin winarni on February 22, 2012 at 9:08pm
Luar biasa Opa JL, the jogjakarta salt visit was simply one of the most remarkable we have in Indonesia. Personally - do believe that all participants of the visit will plan other event that discover our humanity and makes, like you felt, us in peace and been blessed. Terima kasih..anda datang ke Indonesia
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on February 22, 2012 at 8:11pm

Thanks Jean Louis for your blog. What I take from this, that we learn a great deal from SALT visits but the post SALT visit reflections we do as  a team are very important and powerful.


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