You have heard is said that all we need is love. Chances are, if you ask the people on your street or in your home if love is the most important thing in the world, they’d agree.
But does the manner in which we spend our lives corroborate this? What would it look like if we seriously believed love to be the only thing of worth?
Rocky Braat is no one special. He’d tell you that, himself. His e-mails are full of misspellings and typos. But he has given his life to the love of others.
My intention is to create a documentary that will tell his story; the story of an ordinary man who is trying to live a life in which love is the only value.
It is a human story, and so it isn’t always pretty or clean, but my hope is that people will see what he is doing and be inspired.
He was just going to visit the orphanage in northern India. But nothing, as it has a way of doing, stayed the way it was supposed to. He met the orphans there, thirty in all. Each infected with AIDS.
One boy, Saravana, will give you an idea of the orphan’s life. He lived in a small village with his brother and sister. His father owned a dress shop and his mother was a housewife. One day, his mother became sick. They took her to the hospital. The doctor there ran what is apparently a routine AIDS check for the whole family. His mother tested positive. Then his father. Saravana’s sister was negative, and so was his brother. Saravana tested positive. Not long after, his mother died. Two months later his father died. His family left him on at the door of the orphanage.
Rocky, dubbed "Uncle America" by the orphans, fell in love with them. They broke his heart with their joy and their pain. He saw the pictures of people on the wall, workers who’d done just as he had planned to do: come for a few months, and then leave.
He saw that these children had been abandoned many times in their short lives. Because AIDS is believed by many to be communicable through touch, these children had not been held in long time. Rocky had to teach them to return hugs. He had to take them by the wrists and wrap their arms around him.
We’ve all been abandoned. Sometimes, all we wish for, even as adults, is to crawl up on the lap of someone much bigger than us and simply be held. To my eye, these children are no different from us. In them we should see ourselves.
I have no wish to inspire pity; that would denote a superior value. That would promote the idea that we look down from a height, that their needs are not cousin to our own.
Much of our time is spent looking forward. Thinking, if I just accomplish that one thing, if I have a fulfilling job, if I can just have a little peace and quiet after dinner, than something will click in my heart and I will be content.
But, as Rocky said to me in an e-mail: ‘I’m coming to doubt myself more and more as I reach the destinations I marked out to reach. At the end it’s (sic) seems that you came a long way for nothing.’
These children, regarded as no better than lepers, are in perpetual worry about being abandoned again. But what is truly inspiring is how they have overcome their greatest fear to love Rocky. That, after six months, a small boy walked up behind him, took his hand, and said, ‘I love you.’
It’s not easy. Rocky has wanted to leave, many times. He wonders if he will ever have a wife. He has to go on weeklong retreats alone to regain energy. The work he does is exhausting. He struggles to love those who are physically deformed as well as those who are beautiful. He is a man, and as such he gets angry, and irritated, and hates the hot weather. But he hasn’t left.
These children opened themselves up again, although their hearts have been thrashed beyond measure. They love despite the fact that most of them won’t live past seventeen.
Rocky has become okay with eating only rice, and the biting of mosquitoes at night and of flies in the day, and not having toilet paper or a bed to sleep in, because the love he gives them is returned to him ten-fold. He has discovered, as so many have, that the things we think we need, the things we are told we need, are not what we need.
I want this documentary to be beautiful in its simplicity. How else to tell the story of an ordinary man trying to live a life in which love is the only currency? I want you to watch it and humbly question the depth of your love for humanity. I don’t care about profit. Every single person involved in this project is working for free. We have been inspired by Rocky, and only wish to create a conduit through which others can also be inspired.
Most of all, I want to tell a story that takes us from a life destined for middle-American success to an impoverished orphanage and all the while repeats the idea that love is not a part time job. That love can do just as much good in Pittsburgh as it can in India.
In January, 2011 we plan on setting out to India with a crew of 4 people, 2 cameras, and a bunch of equipment.
We encourage you to, please, take a few minutes to check out Rocky's webpage and blog (www.they-can.com) which illustrates even further why this story needs to be told. All of the photos are taken and edited by Rocky during his time in India with the children.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and for your consideration in donating to this project.
‘I often wonder what would it look like if all people resisted the temptation to focus on themselves and truly poured themselves out for the benefit of others.’ -Rocky
THE CREATIVE TEAM
Steve Hoover & Danny Yourd: http://vimeo.com/endeavormedia
Phinehas Hodges (Writer): http://speakingofpittsburgh.com/
John Pope (Director of Photography): http://vimeo.com/7334170
Samm Hodges (FX): http://vimeo.com/user4933887
Allan Stallard (Colorist): http://vimeo.com/user1028432
For more information on the documentary, please visit: www.uncleamericafilm.com
- (49 days)