Over the last little while I’ve been reading and watching quite a bit about the lives of others, specifically children, in developing countries.
On Friday night we watched, Machine Gun Preacher, which chronicles the real life of a heroin addict turned preacher and LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) fighter in Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. While Gerard Butler did a great job portraying this fire-breathing man, I encourage you to check out the real thing. He’s badass.
I participate in a monthly book club and we read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. This non-fiction has become a sensation and is touted by the likes of George Clooney, Gloria Steinem, Meg Ryan, and Susan Sarandon. It has both a website (which I’ve linked above) and has been made in to a two-part documentary. I decided to watch the first half on Saturday morning.
If you watch either of these movies, which I hope you do, I encourage you not to watch them too close together. Machine Gun Preacher was a highly emotional movie for me and while I didn’t cry quite as much during Half the Sky, it’s a lot to take in.
I spent quite a bit of time thinking about what I had seen in both films and read in Half the Sky. I started thinking about what I complain about and what I take for granted. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go on a rant about the western world and how we have so much and appreciate so little. I promise I won’t because it’s annoying and tired.
I also thought about what I was doing to help others in my community and beyond. And while I may be somewhat helpful in my local community, I realized that I’ve done absolutely nothing for those in developing nations, those who have so very little and have had so much taken away. Those that have been raped, beaten, starved and mutilated who, amazingly, are still able to smile, heal, find joy, and help others once they themselves have been given a chance.
While I could have spent a lot of time feeling guilty (I did spend a lot of time feeling sad), I didn’t. Instead I came up with a plan of action for what I can do now and what I hope to do in the future. While I can’t donate my time right now, I can donate some money, albeit a little. But first and foremost, I must select a charity (a top-rated one in terms of financial records) that I believe in, one that I can actively participate in when I have the opportunity to go abroad. And no, I don’t want to go and just build something. While admirable and important, we should really be sending people to teach construction and trade skills to the people within that village or community, not taking those jobs away from them. So I guess I believe in education and empowerment. I guess I believe in the old saying,”give a man a fish, he eats for a day. teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime” or something like that…
And during all this thinking and planning, I realized an important lesson. That I should appreciate today and the wonder that it brings. That I should appreciate the family and friends I have and not spend time ruminating (which I spend a lot of time doing) on the friends I’ve lost or don’t have. That I should appreciate my cozy condo and not wish for something bigger. That I should appreciate the food I have in my fridge and cupboards and not complain about not having enough.
No, it’s definitely not ground-breaking, but it’s important. We’re told to appreciate what we have all the time. It get’s annoying. It seems condescending. And thus, it often gets ignored.
I’m not trying to be condescending or patronizing. I will likely find something to complain about tomorrow, but I will try not to (if I complain about anything it will be cleaning…). I will try to remember the thoughts and feelings I had over this past weekend. I will remember my action plan. I will remember the young children who have been so brutally harmed, who still manage to smile and laugh.
Sometimes we need to see or read something to ground us – to remind us that there is unrest and injustice in the world and that we can do something to help. Sometimes we need a reminder to appreciate all that we have and yet to experience. Machine Gun Preacher was my reminder.
While this may not be your reminder, I hope you find something soon.