I know most of you come here for tales of Moroccan life; hopefully I make some of you laugh, and perhaps think. Even if you are only here for the pictures, I appreciate your time. Today I have to write about something more serious, and I hope it will make you think. If you are a first time visitor and you came for the laughs, bear with me or flip down quickly to the past posts.
Each and every one of us can make a difference in the world. Each and every one of us can stick our necks out for someone else, for a principle, for a truth, for compassion. The proven scientific laws of physics say we affect the universe just by being in it. It is not a philosophic truth but one of hard science. We each decide every day what effect we will have.
I watched a movie last night “Freedom Writers” starring and produced by Hilary Swank. Powerful. I wish I knew a bigger word. I picked it up by accident? No, I don’t believe that. I think the universe pushes together the people and circumstances that have business to be done. Not destiny, I don’t think our lives are preordained. I think we have choices. Now I admit to the possibility it could be sheer hubris that leads me to this conclusion, the desire to control my own fate. I could be wrong. I’ve been wrong before. I didn’t like it, but I didn’t die from it either.
This movie is the true story of a teacher, her students, and the difference she made in their lives. Anyone who comes here at all often knows I hold teachers in high regard. Aristotle taught Plato. Plato taught Alexander. Alexander conquered the known world. That’s the power of a teacher. Parents are teachers they have that same power.
Erin Gruwell was a new teacher in Long Beach, U.S. The school was as bad as any prison with gangs, guns, and lack of hope. This woman made a difference. One person affected the lives of so many. Please, if you can, find this movie and watch it. I warn my friends whom I know have soft hearts, take your tissues. Easy chaps this is NOT a chick flick, not that there’s anything wrong with that, but this is not of that genre.
We who have known freedom for all of our lives, I don’t think we can know the mind of someone who has known oppression for all their lives. We can have compassion, we can have understanding and hope, but we cannot truly know that state of mind. What is it like to be condemned by the color of your skin, or the borders drawn on a map? We can’t know the terror, the constant apprehension of living with a gun to your head, be it in the ghettos of America or Afghanistan. I have been to a couple of war zones, but I knew I would be leaving. The desperation that must come when you know you can’t leave; you can’t get your children to a better, safe life.
The death of hope is by far worse than the physical death of the body.
I am fortunate and cursed in that I have seen true poverty, which is not a lack of money but a lack of hope. I have seen violence and death up close. I have lost people I loved to bullets fired in hate, and I tell you we can make a difference. I don’t know the why of it but if you read history, if you read the paper, you find people who came from the worst circumstances and made a positive impact on the world. Names that come prominently to mind are Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey, Aung San Suu Kyi, and Steve Biko. There are others, many who did not achieve fame.
There’s one thing about violent death you don’t see on the cinema screen, you can’t get from a book, and that’s the smell. Like cold metal shoved hard into the back of your mouth until you gag with the taste of it; like Christmas morning turned to murder. You never forget that smell. Some of our neighbors live with that every day. Our neighbors, yours and mine, because in our world of internet and jet travel and smuggled arms, Baghdad is next to London and Kabul is rubbing up against New York City.
I think every hungry child is our responsibility. We can’t feed them all no, but perhaps one? One of the best charities I know is Heifer International. They take a goat, rabbits, or a cow to a village and require that the offspring must be given to another family. Through this action an entire village can be saved. It is truly a small act that makes a huge impact. It’s what is needed, small steps that can be repeated. I rail against the grandiose plans with great war chest to end the poverty of the world. I admire the intent. I admire the actions taken to raise the money, but the real work is at the bottom of the ladder. We have to be as particular about where we give our money as we are about how much we give.
I love what His Holiness calls it – benevolent selfishness because no good act goes unrewarded. I think of Debio’s care of the young man who works for her and the hundreds of good deeds you have all done and it gives me hope. Look around, our world is in chaos. It is not acceptable to have starving children. It is not acceptable to have weapons in the hands of child soldiers. It is not acceptable to have young men and women dying in uniforms for petrol. It is not acceptable to do nothing.
All of you give me hope. I’m amazed at the compassion, care, humor and talent that are out there every day. I am asking that each of us be aware, every day of every action we take. A word spoken in anger to a parking attendant can do more harm than we know, what effect would a kind word have instead? When the cab driver doesn’t speak our language, we need to remember he may be fluent in several others. What is his history? Was he a professor who is escaping persecution? When the pushy woman breaks the queue perhaps it is a mass of years of being pushed aside herself. I choose to believe that inside each of us is a Buddha heart of pure goodness – by any other name – soul, conscience, spirit. We can become overwhelmed by acts of cruelty or neglect but that core of goodness is there. If we can remember that and see it in others before passing judgment what would happen?
Every day, every one of us can make a positive difference in the world. It is a big responsibility isn’t it? We can affect world politics with our votes, our letters, and our protests. We can eliminate world hunger by taking a small step to make a difference – multiply that by billons and Bob’s your uncle. We can change a life with a kind word or act. These are real concrete actions not some philosophical meanderings.
All right I’m done now. Thank you.