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Tsebel: the Broken Water that Delivers Us

We never really heal, we just get better over time. Even then, the mending process is arduous—pain is the cost of doing the busyness of life. I write this in light of a private message I received this morning after I posted a video that I produced while I was homeless in Fort Colllins, Colorado. The gratitude and heart-felt appreciation that I received from a stranger whom I will never meet was like a violin coaxing tears from my eyes.

Yet, the mending continues…

I am not sure what moved me the most, the present circumstances of the reader who reached out to me or the reminder of my own past tribulations. I guess there is no need to inspect the difference, all art that moves us are those that draw our hurts. After reading the moving message from a sojourner in another state, I decided to listen to the video myself as I was driving to work in order to reflect from whence I’ve come and where I am heading in life.

Yet, the mending continues…

From making six figures at Booz Allen Hamilton, I spiraled into a state of perpetual strife and indigence. Gone were the days of sleeping on expensive Tempur-Pedic pillows cocooned in 300 count bed sheets; in one fell swoop, I was laying my head on grade A concrete pavements only to graduate to sleeping in donated sheets. However, this is not a sad song, I am not trying to coax broken water from your eyes. I’ve climbed out of the dark hole that indentured me into a life of homelessness not too long ago. I am now married, holding down a steady job and pursuing my passions in life while speaking against the excesses of this federated system that continues to crater the lives of millions of society’s invisible citizens who I used to call neighbors.

Yet, the mending continues…

As I noted in the article that I wrote last evening, one of the first people who gave me a spark of hope at the outset of my lamentation was a rabbi named Dov—life is poetic in that way. He told me to hold strong and that what man takes from me—if I endure and refuse to give my hand to bitterness—God would give back seven fold. Rabbi Dov was wrong; I was given back seven times seventy-seven fold. The minute I stopped seeking love and acceptance, my love, Fikre means my love in Amharic, that I tried to erase was reborn through a queen who eventually became my wife by the name of Bethlehem—life is poetic.

Yet, the mending continues…

What I was pondering, while stuck on 495 this morning, is how the articles I write about the quintessential human stories of loss and restoration imbue hope in people’s hearts compared to the articles I write about politics and the muckeries of this world allow people to vent their frustrations. Sure, the articles I write about Trump, Pelosi and the media-politico complex writ large garner a lot of attention, but the ones that reach people’s hearts and evoke a sense of optimism are not the missives I pen about politics but the stories I share about the human experience. Yet, as much as I rage against the moral bankruptcy of mainstream media, too often I become that which I fight. I too am guilty of feeding into the divisiveness and antagonism of our time; my ego pushes me to write about mainstream narratives when there are countless people who toil in the shadows whose stories I could be light to.

Yet, the mending continues…

I’ve come a long way from the days when I refused to give an inch to anyone who tried to diminish me. There was a time when I used to revel in putting people who came at me in their place—I recount my phase of foolishness in the video. I used to openly boast about it. I would tell people that anyone who dared to come at me with a match stick better brace for incoming torpedoes. The gift of wordsmiths that God gave me I’ve inverted on frequent occasions in the past; instead of giving people hope with my words, I used to delight in burying trolls. I justified it all; although my default position is to be kind to others, my arrogance made it impossible for me to let any slight go unanswered. I won every vitriol contest, I lost every time in the process.

Yet, the mending continues…

The topic I covered in the video below that moved someone to inbox me—which ultimately motivated me to write this article—is about Candle Blowers. There are people, you see, who are so bitter that they find joy in blowing out other people’s candles. While I was staying at Harvest Farm in Northern Colorado, where I was working in the community kitchen while living rent free and feeding dozens of other broken souls like me, I was inspired to do podcast prodded by one of my roommate’s spiteful actions. My bike thrown in the dirt, my clothes strewn about the floor, before I could say seize the day, I was embraced by malice.

Yet, the mending continues…

The video recounts the experiences of that day. I was proud of myself in the moment, instead of brooding or confronting all my roommates in the hopes of finding the culprit, I decided to take the farm van into town to look for a job. That day, I got my first job wage paying job in Colorado. I was hired as a deli worker at Safeway—talk about change I could believe! Once a former high priced consultant with an MBA from Johns Hopkins, I found myself cutting lunch meat for customers. That day, far from being bitter, I celebrated. The gratitude I never found climbing corporate ladders I finally discovered mired in the basement of society.

Yet, the mending continues…

Listening to the #CandleBlowers video this morning, I was taken aback by how much I was motivated by vindictiveness that day. Although I did not revert to my torpedo chucking days, I could not deny that payback was the foundation on which I created that video. Funny how present wisdom transmutes into imprudence as we age. Life, through scars and the unkindness cuts, has a way of smoothing out our rough edges and moderates our impetuousness.

Yet, the mending continues…

Robert F. Kennedy once recited a poem by Aeschylus as he was giving a speech in Indianapolis announcing the death of Martin Luther King:

“Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair,
against our will,
comes wisdom
through the awful grace of God.”

Two months after giving this most amazing speech, RFK’s life was stilled by the bullet of assassins both seen and unseen. Life mauls us all, suffering is a universal human condition. From prince to pauper, none can escape pain’s gravitational pull.

Yet, the mending continues…

I once asked a friend what tsebel meant. Tsebel is holy water that is dispensed at churches; in my Ethiopian Orthodox Faith, tsebel is seen as an essential means of purifying our brokenness and seeking redemption. My friend kicked around some ideas and ultimately concluded that tsebel means “broken water”. The poet inside of me immediately accepted this translation—it made sense to me.

We are all brought into this world through broken water and we all exorcise our hurts by breaking waters that emerges from our tear ducts. The human body is 60% water, the other 40% is filled by the fire of ego. We vacillate between these two polarities; trying to be life like water and falling victim to the fire of ego that resides in all our hearts.

Yet, the mending continues…

Through it all, we get better over time—we mend as we choose it. By the by, I did not have any intentions of writing again today; as Hemmingway once noted, writing is easy, all one has to do is sit at a keyboard and bleed. But after a random message moved me to tears and upon reflection of my own journey, I decided to write this article for one reason. I know there is someone out there, if not many, who are going to read this and find hope in these words that I write.

Yet, the mending continues…

Serendipity strikes again. Just like that, as I was about to conclude this article, I received another message from a random stranger, this time in a public forum. After reading a Tweet that Fort Collins Rescue Mission posted relaying my story and the article that I wrote last week about my journey earlier today, Nikki tweeted me out of the blue and noted that she is enduring the gale winds of life at the moment as she faces a life of uncertainty with her autistic son. There was a time I used to doubt stories like hers; no more. After what I went through, it is better to be empathetic and be proved wrong than to be insensitive to the plight of other people.

Nikki and I could not be any more different, we are of different complexions and her politics is radically different than mine. But when people are hurting, we must find it in our hearts to stow away politics and embrace the human spirit of kindness. I ask people to not turn this article into an occasion to bicker about ideology or identities, no matter the disagreements we have with one another, let us have conversations with one another. People who have different political or cultural viewpoints than you are not your enemies, they too are struggling. We should, by all means, hold people’s feet in positions of authority to the fire, but for the rest of us, let us lead with compassion.

Yet, the mending continues…

As people read this article, I know that some will cry silent tears, others will sob openly. If you are one of those people, I just want you to know that the water you break from your eyes are redemptive, the same way you cry today out of sorrow, one day you will look back and cry tears of happiness. Such is life, we must go through shadows before we appreciate the sun. Through it all, the mending continues:: #Tsebel Click To Tweet

“If the world’s a veil of tears, smile till rainbows span it.” ~ Lucy Larcom

Give as We Are Given

I ended up reaching out to Nikki on Twitter to check up on her and to give her some encouraging words. I advised her to start a GoFundMe account and that I would do my best to direct people to help her out as people are able. As I noted earlier, we live in an age of skepticism so I can’t fully vouch for her story, given what happened with the homeless veteran and the couple who conspired to defraud funders, I can understand why people would be hesitant to give to others who they don’t know.

However, I came to this realization as I deliberated whether or not to ask people to give on her behalf. What matters when people give to others is not the outcome but the spirit of kindness we can encourage from others. Whatever Nikki’s circumstances are, I can guarantee you that she is not someone living in the lap of luxury. Ghion Journal nor I are not taking a penny of the donations; all contributions will go directly to the person (Nikki) who creates the GoFunMe account. Click on Nikki’s picture below to be directed to her GoFundMe account. Please reach out to Nikki when you can and give her an encouraging word as well—kindness is a currency that pays for an eternity.

While you are at it, for those who are able, please consider contributing to the Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund, an initiative started to help lift people out of poverty in my birthland Ethiopia. After all, if not for the kindness of countless people across multiple states that was given to me, you would not be reading this article right now and I would be shrouded in hopelessness in the streets. As we say in Ethiopia, amesegenalew, I thank you::

Teodrose Fikre
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Teodrose Fikre

Founder at Ghion Journal
Teodrose Fikre is the co-founder and editor of the Ghion Journal. A published author and prolific writer, a once defense consultant was profoundly changed by a two year journey of hardship and struggle. Going from a life of upper-middle class privilege to a time spent with the huddled masses taught Teodrose a valuable lesson in the essence of togetherness and the need to speak against injustice.

Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.
Teodrose Fikre
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