Let me begin by acknowledging a major truth:
I live an amazing life. I am so damn lucky.
I own that. More people should.
I just spent an entire weekend in London, went out to amazing restaurants, stayed in a great hotel, saw some amazing bands, spent some time with some great people; basically did whatever I wanted to do.
I live in Oxford, I am from Sydney. I have a home, I have a great job, I have people who support and love me and I have food in my fridge. I have my personal demons and I have been through a lot, as many have, but I have access to services, mental health support and an amazing support network of friends and family when I don’t feel like myself. There is so much that I am so thankful for.
On the coach ride back to Oxford from London, I sat writing notes on my phone as I usually do, the cursor blinking at me, mockingly. I had to say something; I needed to say something, the words were whirling around, but yet I couldn’t shape what I wanted to say into coherent sentences.
What could I actually piece together in this time that could remotely be of benefit to anyone? What can I do, in my life to make any sense of what is happening in our world? How can I actually make a difference? What was it that I could offer to others, when I myself sat bewildered, hurt, confused and saddened at the world around me? What was it at this moment that I could actually do to make any difference at all?
I clicked through page after page of news and social media, challenging myself to dig deeper—to search for some meaning amidst the madness. Often at times like this, news and social media have this way of wanting us to shut out from all of the news; it’s too much to deal with, I don’t want to believe this is going yet I can tear myself away from thinking about it.
Swirling around the internet were words of intolerance, bigotry and hate.
Hastily drawn conclusions, assumptions and many words born out of panic.
This I had both dreaded and expected.
This has happened before; fear struck into the hearts of an entire world.
Fear has this horrible way of bringing out the worst in people. Fear causes people to react without thinking—without logic. The words of hate and panic were very much alive and audible as they scraped the already raw wounds of pain circulating around the globe.
But far more than that, what restores my faith in the world and in people; I saw an outcry of love.
Love to those reeling from this terrible act in Paris, but also to those around the world who have so recently felt the horrible burdens of war and strife.
I saw love extended to those in despair facing the aftermath of the bombings in Beirut, to the Syrians trying desperately to escape the very terror that was unleashed on Paris and to those caught in anguished, bloody, heart wrenching situations all over the world. To the tragedies that we don’t talk about; what isn’t on your television screens and what people aren’t sharing on Facebook and Twitter.
I saw, over and over, a challenge to one another to do better.
To extend acknowledgement of our world-pain beyond Paris—to Beirut, to Syria, to the homeless, the suffering, the ill in our own countries. On our own streets. The people that we walk past every single day. The battles that are fought in our own backyards.
I don’t know, right at this moment, what I can do to help. I don’t have all the answers. This blog post won’t make anything change. Sometimes this is the most overwhelming problem; we as individuals feeling helpless is probably one of the most heart wrenching of all emotions.
Our world is in pain; this is not new. But from suffering, from a new awareness, perhaps we can be personally driven to action in our own lives and do things that help to make a difference in the world.
Maybe each in our little own individual ways we can start to make sense of the people that we are and how we can use our kindness to make the lives of others better.
“Despite all our individual characteristics, no matter what education we have or what social rank we may have inherited, and irrespective of what we may have achieved in our lives, we all seek to find happiness and to avoid suffering during this short life of ours. In light of these considerations, the time has come, I believe, for each one of us to start thinking and acting on the basis of an identity rooted in the phrase “we human beings.” – Dalai Lama
This quote really resonates with me. Life is just so short.
To put it less eloquently, we are all in this together. If there is one thing every single person can take away from the pain in the world right now, may it be a drive to do better in their own life and make a difference where they can make a difference. This doesn’t mean to make any significant big changes, but the little changes of many can make such a difference.
To be kinder. To practice compassion and empathy every day, to the best of their ability.
It helps to remind us, even briefly, how short and precious all our lives are, and how important it is treasure your loved ones.
Buy dinner for your family. Pay for the person in the lines coffee behind you. Treat your friends. Be more patient in line-ups. Donate your time to a local charity. Give your relatives a call.
Offer to help. Don’t just offer to help–-actually help.
I thought about this a lot on my way home, and thought: What can I do?
All around me, in my amazing, lucky life, are sincere ways I can reach out and make the lives of other people that little bit better. It might not seem like much, but maybe that little bit of kindness can really go a long way.
The Fred Rogers quote has been discussed a lot in times of turmoil: “Look for the helpers.”
Today, I implore you, every single person who has read this blog post to this point to take a step further and become a helper.
No help is too small, no act of love too tiny to make a difference. It doesn’t have to be much, but I think that it is so important that we take the time to think about how our little actions can really make the world of difference to those around us.
I believe the answer I sought is simple and accessible to all of us: To look for those helpers, cherish them, and be one – there is no better time to start than today.