On August 29, when I started writing this post, the people living in Hokkaido, Japan woke to sirens and messages from the Japanese government to seek shelter from a North Korean missile.
“There’s nothing I can do, so I try not to think about it.”
According to NPR, this was a quote from one of the residents of Hokkaido when asked how she felt about North Korea’s missile launches.
This understandable quote has brought forth my ire and disgust. Not at this woman but at what seems to be a shared response from communities across the world to choose inaction when all around us the world is crying out for help.
I have empathy too. It is easy to fall into the cycle of becoming inundated with so much information, not knowing how to help and then becoming paralyzed with fear and then a last-ditch hope (or maybe it’s more like a wish) that someone else will take care of it.
So, let’s empower ourselves to not become crippled by too much information and seek inaction as our refuge. Down with apathy!
Call To Action Section: Because inaction was never a valid option
Surprisingly, and not, I was tested right from the get-go. At this stage of writing this blog post, I went searching for resources and, instead, was plunged further into that feeling of hopelessness and despair. All search results returned news articles that sounded increasingly dire.
But I stayed with those uncomfortable feelings and ultimately found some examples of things we can do to effect positive change. If you have other suggestions, please share them with me and I’ll update this post.
- Stay informed from reputable news sources
- Create or sign a petition on Change.org
- Write to your politicians
Hurricane Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia
Continue to help the victims of Hurricane Harvey (and Irma, Jose and Katia) but be sure that you don’t fall victim to organizations that would love to scam you out of your good intentions.
- Leverage Charity Navigator to find out which nonprofits are best to support so the most aid will go to the victims
- I donated to Save The Children – 86.5% of the money donated goes to their programs
- Recognize that our impact on climate is changing the world and take steps to reduce your footprint
Black Lives Matter
Institutional racism is here and it is not going away without our help.
- Learn about the Guiding Principles that make up the Black Lives Matter movement
- Be honest with yourself and see where your bases lie – Take this 8-question quiz
- Educate yourself on how to overcome said biases and be an advocate for others
According to NPR, “The number of people forcibly displaced from their homes is the highest since World War II.” And many of the refugees are children.
- Understand how the refugee processing and resettlement process works
- Think twice about leaving your furniture curbside. Schedule a pick up of your in-good-condition-but-no-longer-needed items for local refugee resettlement non-profits, like The Welcome To America Project (solely in Arizona).
Be the best version of yourself
The days feel more somber of late. In these times I’m reminded of a meditation exercise I try to practice regularly*. Try it out with me:
Take a few deep breaths in and out. In an in breath think to yourself: “I’m going to die.” Let whatever thoughts and feelings arise. Exhale. In the following in breath think of the people you love, know, and those you feel neutral to but interacted with throughout the day. Say to yourself: “You’re going to die.” Let whatever thoughts and feelings arise. Exhale. In this in breath think to yourself: “And we have just these precious moments.”
If more of us treated each moment as precious, which it is, I believe that we would find pettiness replaced with kindness and compassion. And then, it would be as Gandhi wished for us — we would be the change we wish to see in the world.
Consider the following:
That petty thing you wanted to say about your co-worker: don’t say it. To the guy on the highway who you’d rather cut off: let him pass you by. To the person who is speaking to you: turn your whole body in their direction and put your phone down. To that person you appreciate: tell them. Pick up trash. Drop the need to be right and replace it with the need to be loved and to love others.
Let’s be true to the best version of ourselves. In doing so we will we start to recognize that others, just like ourselves, just want to be happy (free from suffering). And I believe we’ll see more empathy in the world.
(*Source: Exercise by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh and shared through Tara Brach.)