I hope you had a terrific weekend. We did! (I even took a nap. gasp!)

Among all the other things I said I was going to do, I finished reading The Martian. I picked it up on a whim and really liked it. Mark Watney, the astronaut stranded on Mars, is sarcastic and hilarious despite his dire situation which kept me happily entertained and, at times, laughing out loud. I can so appreciate a simple, offhand joke in the midst of serious drama. Those who can pull it off by distracting from the gravity of the situation are brilliant in my opinion. (Did you see what I did there? Gravity. In space! tee hee.)

It occurred to me numerous times throughout the book that maybe all of the time and effort being spent on saving Mark’s life was unnecessary and unbelievable, but he summed it up perfectly at the very end:

The cost for my survival must have been hundreds of millions of dollars. All to save one dorky botanist. Why bother?

Well, okay. I know the answer to that. Part of it might be what I represent: progress, science, and the interplanetary future we’ve dreamed of for centuries. But really, they did it because every human being has a basic instinct to help each other out. It might not seem that way sometimes, but it’s true.

If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashed, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do. And because of that, I had billions of people on my side.

Pretty cool, eh?

I have felt like this. It cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to save my life. Each round of chemo alone was at least $25,000 and before that there were two surgeries which each could have easily topped six figures. All to save one adorable-yet-often-profane mother in Idaho. Why bother?

What do I represent? The vulnerability we feel when faced with the possibility of losing our mothers. The horror of death that could come too soon to fully raise our children. A dreaded reminder that we have little control over how long this precious life will be. So we cheer Save the tatas! and we pour a disproportionate amount of money into breast cancer research to help save the mothers when far more people die of lung cancer.


What it comes down to is: we are hardwired to survive and help each other survive. This is why we keep pressing on even in the face of unspeakable hardship and oppression. The stories told through Stronger Shines The Light Inside will break your heart then have you pumping your fist in the air. They are stories of SURVIVAL and that is worth cheering for. Yes! No matter the country of origin or the age or the gender, each refugee I was introduced to seemed to follow the same path: severe oppression/adversity, a journey to physical safety (Boise in this case), an emotional reckoning, genuine appreciation, all resulting in a strong desire to help others. After all they have been through, they don’t wish for material things. They just want to help others! That was the powerful message I took away from each story.


When you are born into privilege and live a very comfortable life, how do you cultivate true appreciation that isn’t fleeting? I have a hard time with this one. My life has been very comfortable, and as a consequence I don’t like to be uncomfortable. I have already forgotten how cold my bald head would get now that I have hair and I rarely think about what my raw mouth felt like now that it is healed. I don’t want to forget. I want to feel that appreciation acutely every day, but I don’t know if that is possible when I can adjust the thermostat and control my comfort with such ease.

img_3016Thanks in part to these stories, I did feel particularly appreciative this weekend – for good friends who care about me, for precious time with my family, for the kindness of strangers, for my body that keeps moving forward, and for the privilege of safety that I have enjoyed my entire life.

It all has me thinking about how I, too, can help others.


There are three sites around town for the Stronger Shines The Light Inside exhibition: City Hall (where I took these photos), The Grove Plaza, and 10th & Bannock. There are only a few stories on the website so I guess that’s incentive to hop on our bikes and visit each site. We have until November 1st to do just that. I would love to know your reaction to these powerful stories!

– Diane

2 replies on “The Martian, The Mother + The Refugee

  1. There are more stories/pictures by the Library on River & 8th St, on the construction fence.
    BTW – “Duct tape is magic and should be worshipped!”
    I’m so enjoying your blogs; is there a trick to get to the 1st entry easily? Cheers!


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