“True compassion does not come from wanting to help out those less fortunate than ourselves but from realizing our kinship with all beings.”― Pema Chödrön,
My birthday is coming up in a few days. This year, I wanted to do something nice for someone other than me. In anticipation of my birthday and #GivingTuesday, as well as Facebook waiving its fee for transaction and the Gates matching funds, I decided to set up a fundraiser for International Rescue Committee on Facebook a few days back. I have no affiliation to the charity other than seeing its name coming up again and again as a source of help for refugees, from Syria to Myanmar (Rohingya) or to those resettling in the U.S. I wanted to make sure I select a “good” charity so I looked up the IRC on Charity Navigator which gave them 4 stars and a score over 90 out of 100. They have been vetted for their accomplishment and found to be an effective organization.
I am not a refugee nor have I ever known how it is not to have a safe place to call home. My home has never been torched to the ground, my body never been abused by someone who aims to humiliate and violate me. I had never been undocumented for my existence or documented for the terrible condition I live in. I do not know how to wake up to the sound of gun fires or ashes of my loved ones falling on my hair. I have not experienced terror or hunger beyond imagination. I have not carried tiny body of a child across a rough terrain for days not knowing if or when we would be rescued.
I have been lucky thus far in life. This is not to say I would never experience any hardship of enormity. Any one of us could become that “others” whom were abused, violated, mistreated, turned away in time of needs.
I have indeed grown up in a country ruled by an authoritarian regime. I do know how to fear those who hold and yield power. I do know how to cower and appease those who hold the mighty guns. I do know how to feel powerless, how to know in my bones my feelings are insignificant, my voice silenced, I as a person irrelevant.
You don’t have to grow up in an unfortunate place or lost your place in the society in order to imagine how to lose everything you have. Surely, you have lost or misplaced a beloved item, such as a wallet, or something of value that you treasured. You might have even experienced how it is not to have hope at one time or another in your life time. Most of us could easily remember a person or persons who have come through for us in our hour of need. It could be as small of a deed as a door being opened so that we could walk in carrying heavy loads. We all have experienced someone letting us cut in line. For the lucky group of us, we have received precious gifts either in money, material items, time, attention or love generously given to us by family, friends or stranger alike.
Once on Facebook, I shared a news story of Rohingya refugees who are currently living in horrific condition in the refugee camp at the Bangladesh border. The article speaks of malnourished children and adults who seemed to have been suffering for a long time. Their bodies are a testament of their chronic suffering. One of my friends messaged me the next day, saying that this story is not true, and that people just wanted to lobby for money.
This makes me think of a quote by Brene Brown. She said that sometimes we cannot walk in other people’s shoes because we would always see through the filter of our lens, but we could choose to believe those who have experienced hardship. How does a child fake malnutrition? How do little girls fake the evidence of rape? Regardless of how the people got to the camp, the facts are irrefutable. They are people with families just like yours and mine. And all of them are living in conditions that a human should not live in.
At the age of “fake news”, it is all too easy to dismiss those who are not like us, who we cannot imagine being like us. It is difficult not to be a skeptic. I’ve been a skeptic all of my life. I still am to this day. However, there is a difference between being a skeptic and a cynic. When credible evidence blows up in our face, we must believe it. We might not be able to imagine how it is to live like those who have lost everything they ever had, but we could choose to believe their experiences. This I believe is the first step in creating a better world.