What Are We Even Doing?

016-2In case you’ve been living under a rock, things haven’t been going so well for the ol’ people of Earth.

Divisions are widening. Tensions are increasing. Truth seems hard to pin down.

Oh, and people are dying.

And it seems like all I can do is watch. In disbelief. In shock. In anger. In tears. In concern for the future.

The non-stop cycle of news is overwhelming. There always seems to be another terrible event.

I want to ignore these things, but I also can’t bear to tune them out because they are so gripping. Because they are real events that affect real people. I cannot unsee or unhear so many things 45 (aka D***** T****, whose name I refuse to have on this blog) has said and done. I cannot unsee the pictures of dead children in Aleppo.  I cannot unsee the desperation of the water protectors at Standing Rock to be heard and respected. I cannot unread the stories of families separated and people banned from entering the United States.

Unfortunately, the tragedy in Aleppo the others mentioned above are just a few of the many horrific things to take place in recent months. The list of heartbreaking injustices is always longer than it should be, but it seems especially long these days.

*Warning: the following paragraph describes some graphic images I viewed of children in Aleppo. Please skip the paragraph if you are sensitive to such topics.*

When I first saw the image of someone in Aleppo holding their deceased infant, I shut my laptop and ran across the room. I could not believe what I had just seen. Later I saw someone holding the severed head of a young boy.

That night, alone in my apartment, I felt so helpless. So small. Everything going on around me seemed so trivial. I felt guilty for earlier being annoyed that I was out of ice cream.

How am I supposed to live after viewing those images?

Seeing those pictures, seeing the people behind the headline shook me. It was not the first time the news has jolted me, and I am sure will not be the last. But this time a question came to my mind with the shock.

What are we even doing?

What am I even doing?

My problems seemed so trivial and unimportant. My minor annoyances seemed so unimportant and selfish.

What are we doing to help others?

Depending on where we live and a variety of other factors, we have degrees of freedom and power. What are we doing with all of that? Are we collecting, gathering, hoarding? Are we giving? Are we watching Are we learning?

What are we doing?

I, as well as many others, have the luxury of forgetting. We are able to be distracted by the things in our own lives and forget about the tragedies others are experiencing. And maybe sometimes we remember those people, but usually by the time we do, all we have to send are thoughts and feelings of concern.

We can also fool ourselves into only thinking about ourselves when we learn of tragedies. We can get wrapped up in our own reaction to the event that we forget about the people who are experiencing the event firsthand. It is important to practice empathy and not merely sympathy.

It is difficult to wrestle with the tragic events going on in the world, to figure out how to live now that we know about them. But it is critical to remember that this cognitive struggle is not comparable to the struggle facing the people who personally experienced the event.

Nevertheless, we can’t fix it all. We can’t fix everything on our own. But we can try.

Even if it’s just learning about what is happening. Even if it’s just listening. We might think it doesn’t fix anything. But it does. If fixes our ignorance. The people and their stories enter into our awareness so we cannot simply ignore them. We become tied to them because we see them as fellow human beings. Their tragedies become ours, and together we can help and understand one another.

As I continue to encounter things that make me ask “What am I even doing?”, my hope is that I will not reside to inaction. That I will remember to try. That I will remember to learn, listen, and connect with others.

 

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