If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it. ~Lucy Larcom
I love this tiny piece of practical yet poetic advice because it empowers me in three ways:
One: I get to define what cold means. It affirms that, if I’ve felt the icy tendrils of existence, then so be it, whether it manifests through a devastating relationship breakup, or unfairly missing out on an opportunity of a lifetime, or having to wait for the next bus after a bus driver, upon seeing me do my best impression of Usain Bolt toward the stop, proceeds to motor ahead instead of waiting two seconds.
Two: It doesn’t merely state that it’s a cold, cold world. It offers a solution to thaw the freeze for some much needed heat instead of leaving me wondering whether I could get my hands on a pick so that I may carve my way out of an ice block.
Three: It tells me that it is within my power to kindle the fire to create the warmth I seek.
There’s nothing like a natural disaster of cataclysmic proportions to mobilize the world to come to the aid of those needing help. We saw it with Katrina, the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, Haiti last year and the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in San Francisco which I very vividly recall. When the online links and the TV visual prompts are so frequent and graphic, it’s impossible to look away.
What’s also impossible not to notice are the many great fires burning for Japan right now. So much warmth flows through the oceans as evidenced by other nations sending search and rescue teams, donors from a wide range of income brackets making monetary contributions and countless Facebook updates, Twitter feeds prayers and meditation from compassionate individuals. If you’re moved to toss another log in the fire for Japan, click here for some ideas.
Recently, 60 Minutes did a segment on child poverty in the U.S. being at its peak since the Great Depression (video here). More and more children are awakening to homelessness in America as they, too, experience it for the first time. Sixteen million American children live in poverty; a figure that will soon be 25% of the child population in the country. They are being called The Motel Generation because their homes are foreclosed and they are forced to live in two-room motels with their families.
Should we and how do we kindle fires for these children? Is awareness of their condition enough? Is it an opportunity or a responsibility to do something about it? Is donating to food banks or giving a few dollars here and there enough? Maybe not. But it’s something and something is categorically better than nothing. To learn more and for other ways to keep the fires roaring for child poverty in the U.S., click here.
I’m aware that I’m beginning to sound like a broken record. I’ve been writing about The Democratic Republic of Congo since I started this blog. What’s happening there is still largely unknown. Congo — a place where girls are deemed safer in a brothel than being free; where boys shape their boyhood by their possession of a rifle; what nation would like to be defined as such? How is it possible that these conditions exist today? And when you know that something like this is happening on the same planet where you live, what do you do with that knowledge?
The truth? I continue to write about Congo because I’m very disturbed by this knowledge, that there’s not a bigger outcry for its people . And I don’t think I’ll ever be okay with knowing what nightmare of a reality they are living. So, if you don’t mind, I hope you will take the time to learn about their reality that I find so hard to grasp here and here so that you may tell others who may want to do something to help.
What are some things we can do to help? 1) By demanding conflict-free minerals (tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold) in our cell phones, laptops and tablets. If that seems futile, we could boycott companies that continue to manufacture goods using minerals that perpetuate conflict. To see how electronic companies are rated, click here. 2) By sponsoring a woman to improve her life through Women for Women International. 3) By helping to strengthen City of Joy, a safe house that trains victims so that they may become leaders when they return to their community. (To read about City of Joy in the New York Times, click here.)
The Congo? It’s cold out there but not enough of us feel the chill. Their fire needs a whole lot of kindling.
What do you do with knowledge that you find disturbing? Do you look away? Would you share it if you suspected it would help?
When we help ourselves, does it mean we’re also helping others?
Is it possible to help others without also helping ourselves?Is it possible to help others without also helping ourselves?
Action is eloquence. ~William Shakespeare
Image by DrPete