Ever get that feeling you should stop what you’re doing and talk with someone? That happened during a John Maxwell certification course. I was talking with a colleague at lunch when I suddenly felt we should include a woman across the table. Clara Ororie was the woman and she took me on an amazing journey of courage and hope.
Clara is from Nigeria and shared an incredible childhood story of how, after being born blind, she heard God tell her she would regain her sight. Fully trusting God, she kept asking her father for a bicycle until one day, at age 7, he relented and bought her a bicycle. As soon as she got on and started pedaling, her sight was restored.
She continued sharing stories of her life and experiences in Nigeria. She described how she endured three kidnappings, rape, and having a gun put to her head on more than one occasion. I listened intently as she described family as “your weakest asset” since they can be kidnapped or killed in an attempt to silence you. We take a lot for granted in America. We openly and freely debate our differences under the banner of “freedom of speech” and yet, for Clara, her desire is “freedom after speech”: the freedom to speak out without fear of being killed afterwards. Clara remains focused saying, “driving for change is better than shouting about it…I’m not afraid anymore”.
The words “freedom after speech” kept ringing through my head. I understand how she can say she’s not afraid but it makes me wonder what rights do we take for granted. Are we moving from a time of spirited debate to a time when we should begin to fear about what’s next if we do standup and speak out? What battles are we fighting internally while ignoring others’ struggles? How are we getting involved serving our neighbors, locally and globally? What holds us back? What are we afraid of still?
We still have freedom of speech and I will always respect those that speak out, even if I disagree with their ideas. We can’t lose the ability to listen to each other or we will soon desire freedom after speech.