I do my best to empathize with the refugees from the Middle East who are literally risking life and limb to flee their war torn countries. I guess it’s a blessing to be unable to visualize myself in their places, but I can’t escape the feeling that I should be more disturbed than I am. I can look at media photos and videos of the refugees and easily say how awful. But then, I can quickly put it behind me. I try to imagine what their lives must be like, but the truth is, I really can’t.
I realize my life is so privileged, that it’s difficult to relate to the refugee crisis in a way that feels deeply sincere. My life has always been secure, except for one very terrifying, turbulent plane ride when I was sure I would die. I was almost caught in vicious tornados two times. But, frightening as those experiences were, I don’t think they count.
The truth is, I have a very comfortable bed to sleep in each night, even if I do complain about the mattress. I know where I’m going to sleep. It’s not in the street. My world is blissfully quiet when I go to sleep, except for an occasional barking dog. There are NO guns going off, no bombs being dropped. I feel pretty certain, barring some natural catastrophe, that I and my family will awake in the morning. I fearlessly walk my neighborhood and go shopping. I also know where my next meal is coming from. I’ve never suffered through food shortages, in fact, I sometimes complain that our markets have too many food options. Our farmers markets are the very essence of abundance. I only go hungry when I put myself on a self-imposed diet.
I’ve never had to leave all my belongings behind me to start a new life in some unknown, unwelcoming place. I understand that at least 95% of my belongings are just stuff, but that 5% helps to define me in time and history and brings me daily pleasure. I’d have a tough time just having to walk away forever.
I’ve never had to get in an overloaded unsafe boat to make a journey which could have a tragic ending. I’ve never had to place my children in jeopardy.
I’ve never had to find housing, secure education, look for health care and find employment in a foreign country, that may, or may not, be welcoming.
As if that’s not enough, this month I’ve also had the extreme pleasure of entering a theatre almost any time I want to, to watch an extremely talented group of actors ,musicians and dancers create a new work of musical theatre. I have been able to transcend the ordinary at the drop of a hat. What a gift! What a life.
For all of the reasons enumerated above and for many more not listed, I consider myself so very lucky.
I recently made a contribution to Doctors Without Borders, knowing that they do good work and are on the front lines of every crisis. Those dollars will help the neighboring countries surrounding Syria provide medical care to the refugees who are stuck in refugee camps. Making that donation made me feel a little better, although on a grand scale, it feels like putting a finger in a dike of misery.
There is so much suffering in this world and yet so much beauty and caring as well. Both exist everywhere, if we look closely enough. To live fully means I must always count my blessings and remember to celebrate the wonders of life while on this precarious planet. It’s always a balancing act.
What a tragic difficult situation…so complicated without clear and immediate remedy…I appreciate your very thoughtful consideration of the juxtaposition of our lives with those who have so many challenges and much less. I stand sometimes in the shower and feel so blessed to have clean hot water. It is a conundrum to figure out what part one can play in the solution.
Complicated issue that you write about. Of course everyone in the first world as we so poorly put it is privileged. I’ve never known someone who is so grateful for their privilege that they made it a daily practice to share it with everyone. You of all people should not have to contend with privilege guilt. In Zen Buddhism as you know they say even the flutter of the smallest butterfly effects things on the opposite side of the world. You my dear release a flock of Monarch butterflies every morning. I am so blessed to know you and to reap the benefits of your generosity XO XO Mark