I woke up this morning next to a beautiful woman. Her name is Ann. Ann and I spent the whole week together. She came to visit me all the way from Atlanta, Georgia. For the past eight months or so, Ann has been over there as part of a community service organization called Mission Year; she has been working at a soup kitchen as well as running an after school program. Ann chose to do this because she loves others and wants to make a difference in the world.
It hasn’t been easy for her. When Ann is in Atlanta, she calls me almost every night. She often seems worn down and frustrated as she tells me how hard it is to work two jobs, spend time with her community, invest in her church, and still try to have time for herself.
When she woke up this morning she began to cry. She told me that it would be too hard for her to go back to Atlanta; that she wanted to stay in San Diego with me. “I don’t know if I am making a difference. I do the same thing each day. It’s getting to be too much for me. I’m exhausted.”
I didn’t really know how to respond to her at the moment, although it seemed pretty obvious to me that she was making a difference, even to her friends and family in California. Her example has touched and inspired many. My friend Amy always tells me how amazing she thinks Ann is. Ann’s brother told me that he was also planning to participate in the same program in the future. This week at church, Ann’s pastor took a second out of the service to acknowledge that Ann was visiting. A local newspaper honored Ann for her activism and community involvement. I am also inspired by Ann’s love and dedication every single day, although I miss her dearly when she is away.
I also know that Ann is doing some amazing things in Atlanta. Ann tells me how she helps feed 40+ people on a daily basis at the soup kitchen she works at. She can now make fried chicken and macaroni and cheese like they do in the South (with lost of deep fried delicious and buttery love). She tells me about Christmas dinner for the neighbors, organizing birthday parties and picnics, and spending quality time with the elders in her apartment complex.
As we lay in bed this morning, all I could do was hold her tight. I told her that I wish she could stay with me as well. I told her that she was doing a good job and would be back from Atlanta in no time.
I dropped Ann off at the airport a couple hours ago. She’s now on a plane back to Atlanta. I’m not going to be able to see her or hold her for another four months. It hurts to think about it. But I’m glad that she is doing it.
Ann Matsushima: community activist, writer, poet, gentle soul, follower of Christ, artist, lover, healer, teacher, good friend, beautiful woman.