Let me begin by acknowledging a truth:
I live a life of privilege.
I am, to put it a little more crudely, so damn lucky. I own that. I live in Canada, I have a home, I have people who support and love me and I have food in my fridge. I have my personal demons, as many do, but I have access to social services, mental health support, recovery groups.
Late last night, I sat in front of my computer, the cursor blinking mockingly at me. I had to say something; the words were whirling around inside of me, but I could not form them into coherent sentences.
What could I say in this time that could remotely be of benefit to anyone? What could I offer to others, when I myself sat bewildered, confused and deeply, deeply saddened at the world around me? I clicked through page after page of news and social media, challenging myself to dig deeper—to search for some meaning amidst the madness.
Swirling around the internet were words of intolerance, bigotry and hate. Hastily drawn conclusions, assumptions and many words born out of panic. This I had both dreaded and expected. Fear brings out the worst in people. Fear causes people to react without thinking—without logic. The words of hatred and panic were very much alive and audible.
But far more than that, I saw an outcry of love. Love to those reeling from this terrible act in Paris, but also to those around the world who have so recently felt the horrible burdens of war and strife. I saw love extended to our fellow souls in despair facing the aftermath of the bombings in Beirut, to the Syrians trying desperately to escape the very terror that was unleashed on Paris and to those caught in anguished, bloody, heart-wrenching situations all over the world.
I saw, over and over, a challenge to one another to do better. To extend acknowledgement of our world-pain beyond Paris—to Beirut, to Syria, to the homeless, the suffering, the ill in our own countries. On our own streets.
I don’t know, right at this moment, what I can do to help Parisians. I do know what I can do at home. In a discussion with a friend today, he dismissed this concept as silly. I adamantly maintain that it is not. Our world is in pain; this is not new. But from suffering, from a new awareness, perhaps we can be personally driven to action in our own lives.
Flipping through a book while searching for some kind of guidance, I stumbled across some appropriate words by the Dalai Lama:
“Despite all our individual characteristics, no matter what education we have or what social rank we may have inherited, and irrespective of what we may have achieved in our lives, we all seek to find happiness and to avoid suffering during this short life of ours.
In light of these considerations, the time has come, I believe, for each one of us to start thinking and acting on the basis of an identity rooted in the phrase “we human beings.””
To put it less eloquently, we are all in this together. If there is one thing every single person can take away from the pain in the world right now, may it be a drive to do better in their own life. To be kinder. To practice compassion and empathy every day, to the best of their ability.
Love harder. Reach out your hand—to a friend, a loved one in pain or a stranger. Be reminded, even briefly, how short and precious all our lives are, and treasure your dear ones. Donate blood. Be more patient in line-ups. Offer to help. Don’t just offer to help–-actually help.
I sat down last night with a question: What can I do?
All around me, in my simple, lucky life, are sincere ways I can reach out and be of service to others, ways to connect my humanity to yours, and yours, and yours.
We often hear the much beloved Fred Rogers quoted in times of turmoil: “Look for the helpers.”
Today, I implore you, take a step further and become a helper.
No help is too small, no act of love too tiny to make a difference.
I believe the answer I sought is simple and accessible to all of us: To look for those helpers, cherish them, and be one—today.
Author: Keeley Milne
Editor: Toby Israel
Photo: Author’s own.