Sunday, November 23, 2014

Brief reflections upon my return from India with our County’s Sister Cities Delegation

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 - Sunday

Feed, Heal, Shelter, and Educate the World.
(Brief reflections upon my return from India with our County’s Sister Cities Delegation.)

The new video for Band Aid Thirty came out recently. It is a remake of the 1984 “Do they know it is Christmas (Feed the Word)”.  It has appropriately been re-positioned as “Heal the World” to address the Ebola crisis.

While certainly cheesy - and very much a Hollywood approach to the catastrophic situation - it still works. Not perfect; yes, cheesy. But meaningful. I thank the artists for taking the time and effort to (re)make it for a new generation. It is a solid addition to our tradition of Christmas songs. (I know that in our jaded world is so easy to criticize. But…)

It is not lost on me that the first version released 30 years ago was released when our oldest son was born. We were young and idealistic. We bought the t-shirt. Proudly contributed and figured we were being part of the solution to that ravaging famine that struck Ethiopia at the time.

Little did I know at that time that Africa would become an integral part of my life. My wife's (Geraldina Dominguez) work has taken her to countless African nations in the battle against that other devastating, ugly - and still relevant - issue of HIV/AIDS. My local community work has also taken us to Ethiopia as part of the our County’s Sister Cities Delegation. And we remain intimately connected with our local, diverse, and wonderful Continental African communities - including those being most impacted by Ebola.

30 years have changed a lot of things. Yet some remain so radically the same.

We just returned from another Sister Cities venture. This time to India. Our Sister City is Hyderabad, but we also visited New Delhi, Agra (The Taj Mahal), Mumbai, and Amritsar (The Golden Temple). On the way there we also had a 6 hour layover in Dubai.

It was so evident that the need to feed the world - and heal the world - is as dire today as 30 years ago. Not only in Africa, but Asia, Latin America, and most of the southern parts of the world… Yes, Band Aid Thirty is timely - and still as relevant.

In these times of Holidays in America it is indeed very appropriate to take time to discern how we individually, as a neighborhood, community, city, state, nation and world react to this need to feed and heal the world.

We are each of course called in different ways. Some help in their local soup kitchens while others write the policies that guide the United Nations efforts to eradicate world hunger. All contribution is worthy. They all have merit.

And, it is not just ‘feeding and healing’ that warrants attention. It is also ‘shelter and education’ - and many other components of the social, public, private, faith and philanthropic sector… Indeed, things can be so complicated, and seem so hopeless - and are so often analysed to the point of paralysis - that ‘helping’ seems useless and meaningless.

Yet there are so many amazing efforts to do just that: Feed, heal, shelter, and educate the world.
  • No doubt that when we materially feed and heal the world we are spiritually enriched.

  • No doubt that when we shelter and educate the world our foundation is strengthened; our knowledge enlightened.

It may be stating the obvious, but it is amazing how most faith traditions and non-sectarian institutions agree on the simple point that a better fed, healthier, sheltered, and educated people constitute a better society. It is so amazing to see so many faith traditions and non-sectarian institutions work on these matters.

In our India visit we shared with rural schools, dialysis hospitals, places for the mentally challenged and homes for the destitute and maimed. Most are run by faith communities with little - and in some cases no - government support. The dedication, love, and empathy of the people that operate these facilities is nothing short of miraculous. No doubt that money is not their driving force, to say the least. (We are fortunate in our County to have a wonderful Indian-American community that remains very connected to these real needs ‘back home’ and stand ready to welcome others in these initiatives. Much more to follow on these opportunities in the months to come as the Sister Cities efforts reconvene. Stay tuned.)

Personal reflection

As happens to many people it was the face of the children, their smiles, and their beautiful eyes that was personally most impactful of all sensory experiences while in India. The Taj is spectacular. The Golden Temple magnificent. The poverty overwhelming. The crowded streets tax all senses.

  • Yet it was the face of the children, their smiles, and their beautiful eyes - their evident eternal, innocent hope; their evident resolve - that I will forever take with me.

Oh, of course I contributed to the cause. Of course I will send more money. Of course I will talk up the need for others to do the same and more… But, let there be no doubt: I am so convinced that these children will build a better India. These children will build a better world - if only we adults stop our senseless wars and exuberant materialistic ambitions...

These children deserve better.

And - running the risk of touching a highly sensitive topic - particularly the girls: They definitely deserve better.

It was jarring to visit a rural school where all boys had sandals, but none of the girls did. The girls are dispensable. Female feticide and infanticide is a very real issue.

(Sometimes I want to cry out: Wrong. So wrong. All wrong. If certain faiths and/or cultural traditions have evolved to the warped place that demeans womanhood, then let’s call it for what it is: a warped, misguided, fanatical, and - yes - inhumane faith and cultural tradition that has no place in these times. We as a human race are better than that.)

But, of course as serious as this one singular topic is, we should not be paralyzed by it to the point of not doing anything about what’s is immediately possible and practical, or take the little steps that make a little difference… Sometimes it is the little things that matter a lot.

So as we begin this our Holiday Season let’s each do what little we can, how ever imperfect and incomplete it may be, to make that little difference: Feed, Heal, Shelter, and Educate the World.

(NOTE: Sometimes I sense that we are being overloaded with images and the power of words is being lost… So, I hope you appreciate just words for now. Pictures and videos of the visit will follow.)

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