After a 2 hour taxi ride and a six and a half hour bus ride, Laura and I arrived in Gulu on Tuesday, exhausted and happy to be to my Ugandan home at last. Gulu is more joyful and peaceful than I’ve ever seen before. It’s such a delight to be back and to see a new lightness where the darkness of war once prevailed.
Vigilantes, we need to have a chat. I love sharing stories from this part of my life with you, but in order for me to continue doing that we have to agree on something, okay? I need you to stop telling me, “Be safe,” or “Stay safe,” or “Be careful.”
You can rest assured that I take my safety very seriously and I take all of the necessary precautions to protect my one precious and wild life.
I notified the Embassy of my travel plans. I wear my seatbelt at all times on the plane. I wear a helmet when I ride boda bodas. I am supremely cautious with my water intake. I am fastidious with my mosquito net. I keep my doors locked at all times. I am militant in taking my anti malarial pills. My only perfume is a combination of sunscreen and mosquito repellant. I am acutely aware of what’s happening around me on the streets at all times. Safety is ever present in the back of my mind.
I know your wishes, prayers, and pleadings for my safety come from a place of love, but since Tuesday evening, I’ve received 41 comments or messages imploring me to be safe. 41. In a single day. Make that 42 because as I was typing that sentence, another message to, “Be safe,” popped up on my screen. Make it 43 because as I was getting ready to post this, I received a well-intentioned, “Stay safe.”
We don’t tell men this same message. We tell men to have fun or to have a great time. We tell women to stay safe.
Do you know what repeatedly being told, “Stay safe,” does?
For me it does two things.
It makes me more UNSAFE and puts me MORE at risk because it insinuates I’m in danger and plants seeds of fear. Guys, I cannot, I will not, waste a second here walking around keeping company with fear.
Secondly, it makes me feel smaller. Being a woman traveling in a developing country and being in danger shouldn’t be an automatic correlation. That is a wrong thought pattern on our part that also has roots in fear. It’s one that has to change.
Please don’t make me smaller. Don’t be afraid for me. Nothing worthwhile in my life has ever been accomplished by playing it safe. I bet the same could be said of your life, too.
Do I want your well wishes and prayers? Absolutely, 100 times over. Here are some things you can say to me instead.
Tell me to be bold.
Tell me to be fearless in pursuing what God has in store for me.
Tell me you’re praying for God’s voice to be clear in my ears.
Tell me to be bottomless with hope and generous with compassion and open armed with love.
Tell me to stand tall in my calling.
Then go find another woman or girl in your life, in fact go find ALL of the women and girls in your life, and tell them those very same things.