In a world that all too often tells us that selfishness is the only way to get ahead, stories of great love stand out. Today I’ll be telling you about three of my recent favorite love stories: Then They Came For Me, by Maziar Bahari; A Good and Perfect Gift, by Amy Julia Becker; and Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made it Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide, by Stacey Edgar.
None of these books is a romance novel; in fact, one is a memoir with insight into international politics, another is a spiritual memoir focusing on parenting and a child with Down Syndrome, and the last is the story of a small business’ inception and growth.
So why are they some of my favorite love stories?
Maziar Bahari, an Iranian Canadian, worked for Newsweek as the magazine’s correspondent for Iran in 2009. He traveled to his country of origin in July to cover the presidential election between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi. Bahari describes the mood in Iran as hopeful, electric. Despite his own family’s turbulent history in Iranian political matters – Bahari’s father and sister had been imprisoned by the shah in the ’50’s and Ayatollah Khomeini in the ’80’s, respectively – Bahari anticipated an unhindered professional visit for himself, and an unprecedented victory for the moderate Iranians as he watched crowds swell in support of Mousavi.
Instead, as Iranians watched in disbelief, Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. Within days, Bahari was arrested at his mother’s home and taken to Evin Prison, notorious in Iran. For 118 days, officials imprisoned Bahari, interrogating him, beating him, accusing him of espionage and worse. Throughout his ordeal, he knew nothing of the massive campaign to win his release, spearheaded by his fiancée and Newsweek, until a guard called him “Mr. Hillary Clinton.”
Woven into the narrative about his familial history, his professional life, and his imprisonment, an ever-present love ties Maziar Bahari’s story together. It is love of country. Patriotic love is not exclusive to the United States, and reading Then They Came For Me showed me much of value in the history and people of Iran. In these days of heightened tension between our countries, reading Bahari’s book reminded me of a deeper story behind the headlines.
When we look deeper, even events that seem devastating at first can bring us exactly what we need, according to Amy Julia Becker. Ensconced in a happy marriage, fulfilling career, and cozy apartment as house parents at a private boarding school, Amy Julia Becker and her husband, Peter, await the arrival of their baby girl eagerly. When she arrives, Penny is diagnosed with Down Syndrome. The diagnosis leads to previously unimaginable post-partum feelings; instead of pure joy, Becker describes a mixture of grief and love.
As Becker presents vignettes from her family’s life with Penny, her own view of her daughter veers from grief to acceptance to awe and joy. Throughout, her strong faith and her supportive husband anchor her as she learns to be a parent, not an easy task even in what most of us would think of as “ideal” circumstances. In Becker’s unwavering maternal love, to her own surprise, she finds that Penny is ideal. As I read along, my emotions began to mirror Becker’s. Her pride in her daughter’s abilities, her loyalty to her and protection of her, and her ability to see Penny herself, not just a child with a syndrome, made Becker relatable, challenging, and inspiring.
After love of country and love of a child, love of a business hardly seems as inspiring. Stacey Edgar, however, started Global Girlfriends not out of a love of commerce, but a desire to help impoverished women. Global Girlfriends, started in her home with seed money from an income tax refund, grew out of Edgar’s belief that a successful business model would include partnering with small craft groups worldwide to develop beautiful, on-trend products that would find a wider niche in the first-world market. She wasn’t just a conduit to bring crafts to a new outlet, she felt. Global Girlfriends needed to be just that: a collection of girlfriends, each bringing her gifts to the table to share.
For Edgar, the personal connection to the artisans is essential; she recognizes the change wrought in our spending habits when women know the story of the women crafters. When she travels to Nepal and feels as if she’s been brought into the artisans’ family, she internalizes the “namaste” greeting, which conveys the idea that the light of God inside me acknowledges and accepts the light of God inside you. Global Girlfriends is a love story about the power of friendship and compassion to give all of us an opportunity to be made more healthy and whole.
My world can get surprisingly small sometimes. Though we travel often with Honey’s work, I can shrink it down like a turtle until my world is contained in my house. Maziar Bahari, Amy Julia Becker, and Stacey Edgar helped open me back up to love and hope this month. I hope you’ll enjoy at least one of their stories for yourself.