Why Does It Matter? There’s No Hope Anyway…Right? WRONG!


You CAN make a difference, all you have to do is try!

When asked, I am generally a “glass half full” person. I try to stay inspired and I do believe that the world can change. During my reading challenge so far, I have read many memoirs of people who have gone through hell and back and have lived to tell about it and have used their experiences for change. These are everyday, ordinary people who had a choice. They could either let their experiences define them and defeat them or they could rise above it.

This post is part musings and part book review and part wonderings about why we are so dang jaded now.

Have you ever looked into the eyes of someone who has lost all hope in anything? I have. From the outside they look the same, maybe a little worse for wear, but they look like an ordinary person, until you get to their eyes. Their eyes are dead. They have lost their soul, it seems. It is truly heartbreaking. I have seen this in refugee camps, in the eyes of battered women and children, with soldiers and strangely, with youth from pretty decent backgrounds who have no direction in their lives at all. I have seen activists that have burnt out and I have seen the haunted look of someone who expects that tragedy WILL happen to their family.

It’s hard to look at those people and wonder if anything we are doing is going to matter. It is hard to see people that really, truly just exist. It is heartbreaking. It is tragic. It is, unfortunately, a reality of the world. People are touched every day by death, war, violence, hunger, starvation, disease, exploitation, and tragedy beyond comprehension. It has always been that way and it probably always will be. Why? Because we live in a flawed world. If you are a person of faith, you believe that this is because God has yet to return or perhaps that every action, good and bad, is the action of God’s will. If you don’t have a faith you subscribe to, perhaps you just accept that this is the way it is. It is a lot to handle. It is a lot to take on, the many problems of this world of ours. So, do we lack hope? Will things ever get better? Is it better to just take care of our own and accept the chips where they fall? Do we write off the rest of the people as “the collateral damage of life?”

A lot of people would say, “YES!”. They probably don’t mean it maliciously. We all have problems that we deal with and to spend time and money and resources solving someone elses problems means that attention is being taken away from your own. Afterall, if you are having trouble paying rent…it is probably really hard for you to understand why it is important that some kid in some country that you have never heard of gets an education that will empower them but may not do a whole lot else.  It is a harsh but valid truth.

I, however, I say NO, hope is NOT lost and this is why:
I am an American, a resident of the United States. I was born here. I attended great schools, have a great family, have been encouraged to pursue my dreams even if they seem slightly ridiculous and I can and do make my own way in the world. I am blessed beyond belief. I may not be the richest person (or even close!) but I have a roof over my head, I can pay my bills and my kid is safe and healthy. It is a great life. I have been able to travel and heck, I am an unmarried woman with a child who can live alone without fear. Those are all amazing things. I don’t “owe” the world my caring. I could simply go about my life quite easily in my little American bubble. We have a country the size of a continent. We have more than enough to keep us busy here. But I believe that we are also global citizens.

I am also a resident of this planet. My neighbors are neighborhood, community, region, state, country and nation. I have left our borders many times. I want to be a part of the WORLD and not just part of our country. That is why I care. We are all interconnected. Those of us in the “first world” can afford to ignore the rest of the world…for a time. But what does that accomplish? Just because we ignore injustices or problems or tragedy does not mean it goes away. It just means that it exists, as it always has, under the radar, boiling to a point of eruption that might get some attention for a moment, a blip in the evening news, before life goes on and we are all riveted to the latest shenanigans by the Kardashian crowd.

I believe in change.
I believe that people can change.

I believe that an ordinary person can do extraordinary things.

I also believe that, sometimes, the simplest things are what matter the most.

Maybe you can’t afford to take a year of your life and go be a disaster response tech in Sri Lanka. That’s ok.

Maybe you don’t have the money to pay anyone’s school fees other than your own kids. Perfectly fine.

Maybe you don’t have a freaking clue where half these countries are because, well, they all kinda melt together in that region known as “Didn’t we bomb them recently?” You wouldn’t be the only one.

Instead of thinking of all the things we can’t do to help the world, focus on what you CAN!

This is a story that was told to me when I was working with some homeless families. I will paraphrase it to make it better understood but it is really powerful. (all names have been changed!)

***

JoLee is 48 years old, she has 4 kids. Her husband, Frank, is unemployed. He used to work in an auto factory but was laid off. He has yet to find anything that could support his family. JoLee is from Vietnam. Frank is from the U.S. JoLee is a legal resident and through the help of a translator, she tells us how she came to be in the United States and how she came to be Frank’s wife. This is her story: 

When I was 13, my mother couldn’t afford to keep me anymore so she sent me away to an aunt in the city. She said I would get to go to school and if I worked hard, my aunt would take good care of me.  I went and hoped that it would be great and I could send money back to my family. When I got to the city, my aunt told me that she couldn’t keep me but that she had a friend who would take me in. I was shuffled around. That is how I ended up in Lara’s house. I was a lucky one. Many girls are sold to the brothels or sent over the border. I was sent to work for a western aid worker. Lara was very strict but she cared for me. I cleaned and cooked for her and her family. She never beat me and she took care of me. I lived with Lara for 3 years. When I was 16, she told me she was heading back to the United States but that she and her family wanted to make sure I was cared for. They turned me over to their replacement, a couple who had adult children living back in the United States. Mae and John were good people. They were not used to having a serving girl in the house. They didn’t know what to do with me. I think they felt bad about telling me to clean things. When I was 17, their son came to visit. Frank. He was the biggest man I had ever seen. He was only 19 but he played football and worked in a factory. He had huge arms. He stayed for the whole summer and we got to know each other. He liked the food I made. I liked the way he tried to help me but didn’t do a very good job. They were married in Vietnam shortly after and through her marriage, JoLee was allowed to come to the United States and moved to the midwest.

***

There is much more to her story, but let’s stop there. If you have done much reading on human trafficking you know what the odds are that JoLee would have ended up in a legitimate job. They aren’t great. (for more info, read The Road of Lost Innocence  by Somaly Mam) But she made it to a western aid workers house and she was employed. Yes, child labor. YES, 13 years old should = going to school. But no one can argue that Lara didn’t save JoLee’s life through simply protecting her. Maybe it’s a weak argument and I am certainly not advocating bouncing around overseas and employing children but someone cared and it made a world of difference. Something seemingly so simple, employ the local kid to do the laundry = setting in motion a series of events that made that kid’s life so much better. That is what I am talking about.

I believe in change.
Maybe you aren’t cut out for ‘the field’ but you can make a difference in the world. You can help restore someone’s hope. That is so powerful! YOU can do that. You can make someone believe in good again.

Some ideas:

Volunteer your time. (homeless shelter, church, clothing closet, environmental organization, school etc.. the choices are endless)

Be informed. (Such a simple concept but awareness is one step closer to change. You need to know that there is a problem before you seek to go forth and change it.)

Foster a culture of service. (People who went to college with me will know where that came from but it fits. Foster the idea of service to others within your own family and community to ensure that the next generation knows the importance of caring for our world.)

Donate. (give money, sponsor a kid, write letters,  instead of throwing out those old clothes–give them away, donate food to the food drive, Toys for Tots, etc…)

Don’t lose hope.  Our world is a scary and dark place but people are working tirelessly to keep it running.  You have a choice, do you want to believe that the world is not going to get better and there isn’t a point to any of it, or do you want to believe that you can make a difference? The choice is yours. You know which one I chose.

How will you make a difference today? Remember, the tragedy is not trying to change the world and failing–it’s not trying at all. Try, see what happens!

Peace and love,

Bekah

PS: Some more reading:
War Child by Emmanuel Jal (a very gripping memoir of a Lost Boy from Sudan and his experience as a child soldier)

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