"What does the Lord require" but to act justly, love mercy, and to walk humbly with God."
(From The Book of Micah)
"Grant us your forgiveness, Lord. And unto you be our becoming."
(From The Salaat, the final Muslim prayer of the day.)
About 90 pages into Other Lands Have Dreams, Kathy Kelly's extraordinary book of recollections and reflections, we're immersed again in the immediacy of her amazing life:
"Just prior to beginning my sentence I had been released from the hospital following major surgery after a lung collapse caused by a congenital abnormality.
"The women prisoners glaring at me were seeing a 90-pound woman with pink eye, a runny nose, tangled hair, an obnoxious cough, and a facial rash. I could barely bend down to tie my shoes. At that point, the most intimidating woman in the Bullpen laughed, rolled her eyes, and said, 'I don't know what I did so wrong to be locked up with this white mother--with AIDS!' My heart sank.
"I managed to get up to the top bunk and, over the next hours, women closest to me were curious and then kindly, asking me how I'd ended up in the Bullpen. We found small ways to be helpful to one another.
"Within three days, all of the women treated me with affection, calling me 'Missiles' for short. 'Missiles,' said the woman who had first erupted upon seeing me, 'I tried my hardest not to like you, but I just can't help myself--I like you.'"
They called her "Missiles" because, a few months before, in 1988, she had been arrested for non-violently protesting at nuclear-missile sites in Missouri and Wisconsin. At another point in her book, she tries to recall all the times she has been arrested. "I nearly always fall asleep after the first dozen or so," she writes, then lists a few dozen of her arrest-worthy "offenses," including, "five times for planting corn on nuclear-missile silos" and "five times for bringing lentils and rice to the steps of the U.S. Mission to the U.N."
The lentils and rice--and polluted water--had been the typical meals of more fortunate Iraqis barely surviving under U.S.-sponsored U.N. sanctions from the end of the Gulf War in 1991 to the beginning of "Shock and Awe" in 2003. Each time she brings her samples of this poor fare, she invites members of the U.S. Mission to join her in the repast. Each time, she is rebuffed and arrested.
In her first chapter, "Catching Courage," we get a little background: "I grew up on the southwest side of Chicago in an area Saul Bellow described as 'rows and rows of bungalows and scrawny little parks.' I was the third of six children." Her mother and father had met in London during "the Blitz"; her father a GI, and her mother a nurse who had been an indentured servant in Ireland and then in England.
As a high-school student, Kelly's "bedroom" is the living room couch, as she makes way for her siblings. She's not "bothered" by any inconveniences, because she's "in high school, working a part-time job" and tired enough to fall asleep during 'The Tonight Show.'" She attends "a private Catholic school for part of the day and the local public school" for the other.