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My head is a circle

cracked potThis is most likely not the case with you, but personally I feel like a cracked pot. It was appropriate when my daughter, then five, looked at me once and asked: “Mom, why do you have so many cracks in your face?” It wasn’t the most flattering thing anybody has said to me, and I spent a bit more time in front of the mirror that night. Looking at the cracks.

I should have said something wise, like: the cracks in my face are there to show you and the world that I have lived. And anything that is being used will show signs of wear and tear. 

The cracks I am talking about today, though, are not the kind of wrinkles botox can fix. I am talking about cracks like in broken.

It baffles me that after all these years I don’t know better. The voice in my head keeps moving me forward on a never-ending chase for a place to rest. I don’t think I know that it is rest I desire. I think that all I understand is that I long for something that I don’t have. So I fill the space with stuff. I mean stuff that will dull the voice in my head, like a new shirt or a canister with a cool lid. For the shortest bit of time I can feel something tingle inside my heart. Happiness. Then it goes away, and the shirt is  just a shirt, and the canister collects dust.

I fill it with activities that leaves no space for silence, such as organising pillow cases or stacking wood. And I daresay: email, meetings and a social life that can be bragged about on social media. Anything to keep it noisy.  Because in the silence the voice whispers: There is more.

I try to be pretty and nice so people will love me more. Or I try to be loud and shocking so that people will notice me. And when they do, I find that the voice is still in my head saying: There is more.

Looking around me, I find that I am not alone. There are many of us running around, trying to dull the voice. And the more we run, the more we try to fill the empty space, the more we crack.

I was thinking about this today as I was practicing my favourite yoga move, the Corpse. Why is it that no matter how long I live, how many mistakes I make, how many lessons I learn, how many people I hurt, how many people hurt me, I still do the same stupid, stupid mistakes? Why is it that no matter how many of my needs are met, I still wish for more? When will I be content, I wondered. And I moved into Downward dog.

“The voice comes from your soul,” says John O’Donohue. “It is the voice of the eternal longing within you and it confirms you as a relentless pilgrim on the earth. There is something within you that no-one or nothing else in the world is able to meet or satisfy.” He also suggested: “Longing can never be fulfilled here on earth.” Well, that kind of sucks. It almost made me want to go back to the Corpse position, if you know what I mean.

I didn’t want to agree with Mr. O’Donohue. What does he mean longing can never be fulfilled here on earth? I can’t tell because I haven’t finished the book. But it dawned on me that he may have meant that our longing will never be fulfilled, because if it is, we will stop moving forward. If we aren’t looking and longing, we grow lazy, dull and boring. Perhaps that is what he meant. The longing is not the problem. The problem is when we try to stop the longing by filling our lives with noise and clutter so we don’t have to hear the whisper. The whisper that is telling us to keep moving.

The One who dreamed the Universe loved circles, concludes O’Donohue then. I had never thought of that. Circles? God loves circles? But, I think he does. The world is full of circles. I am not entirely sure how to tie the theory of circles to the theory of our constant longing. Except to say that we are good at moving in circles. We move from prayer, love, creativity and joy to hurt and fear and then back to prayer, love creativity and joy.

A broken pot. Perhaps I am. But in a strange way there is comfort in that as well. I am not the only broken pot. We are all broken. And our brokenness is what connects us. It is a misconception that I am the only one with cracks in me, and the rest of the world is whole. Lennart Cohen may have been in his Corpse pose as well, when he wrote this:

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The prince stood us up and the fishermen danced

I promised updates, and all you got was nothing. I was in Burma (that I have now started calling Myanmar because there are just so many other things to worry about than what to call a country). I thought I would write interesting and engaging travelogs daily. My ambitions that were too high and very unrealistic. Last time I wrote a blog, I shared about meeting a prince. 

We did meet him. He worked at a restaurant that made the best tea-leaf salad. In between waiting on tables, he told us part of his story. The one about his dad being a prince, but now he runs a guesthouse. The one about  the government seizing their land and their power. But he was so busy serving the Western backpackers that he couldn’t keep talking to us.

Instead he introduced us to his pregnant wife who runs a store that sells lady-nicnacs, like hair pins, and pantyhose. We talked to her for a long time while she had a cup of hot water and we shared a bottle of Myanmar beer. She was sweet and smart. The kind of person one can become best friends with.

The next day we put on our nicest outfits, bought some fruit at the market and went to meet the prince at the street corner. But he didn’t show up. When we called him, he said his dad had to go away for business and he himself was really busy at his restaurant since it was New Year and this was the most hectic time of the year for a restaurant owner in N Sh.

It sounds like I am making this up, or that the “prince” was making his story up. The thing is, I think he told us the truth. Except, perhaps, the reason he gave for not wanting to see us.

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We were in a part of Myanmar called Shan state. The Shan is the largest ethnic group in the country, and they did, indeed, have their own kingdoms that was ruled by many princes, saophas. After Burma gained their independence in 1948, the Shan with their saophas agreed to turn all the small kingdoms into one—Shan state. The princes still had their positions, but their independent power was more limited. However, when General Ne Win and his military overthrew the government in 1962, he also abolished the Shan saopha system. He took their land and assets, arrested and/or killed the princes and forced the others, with their families, to flee the country. The rest is history.

When the prince didn’t show, we rented bicycles and rode around the largest lake in the country, Inle Lake. The scenery was spectacular, the roads still lonesome, say from an occasional car or tourbus. Along the roads, bamboo houses, patches of vegetable gardens, and fields of sugar cane filled the landscape. I could almost be convinced that this place was paradise. The only struggle facing the inhabitants here may have been mosquitos.

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A boat trip on the lake allowed us to see the famous fishermen who row their boats standing at the edge of the vessel, moving the oars with their legs. It was the most impressive way I have ever seen a person manoeuvre a boat of any kind. It was like watching a ballet dancer on water.

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Did Myanmar have a problem? And if so, what? A prince who waited tables. Was that so bad? Couldn’t one call that progress? We even happened upon a winery on our bike ride. The wine tasted bad, but still. Nothing at that vineyard reminded us of human rights abuses. In fact, wouldn’t you agree that wineries are symbols of peace?

You could say it was a little bit like when I have guests over at my house and I only want them to stay in the living room. God forbid letting them upstairs to the bedrooms and the master bathroom! Not to mention the laundry room. Keep that door shut! If all the guests see is order and beauty, they may think I actually have my shit together.

You see, we weren’t allowed to leave the place of perfect tranquility. The plan had been to go to the rural areas where Partners support schools and medical clinics. Could it be so hard? We would ride our bicycles if need be. Awkward pauses in the conversation made us realise that it was actually that hard. Our Shan guides explained to us that the government would not only deny us access to the areas we wanted to visit, but the Shan themselves weren’t allowed to enter either. Why? They were dressed in pants and dress shirts and looked educated and wealthy. The government feared that people like them would be able to report too much back to the rest of the world about the dirty laundry rooms in the state. “The only way we can get to the areas you want to visit, is we we dress like villagers and act as if we too live there,”they told us.

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It was confirmed that just a couple of mountain tops away, more than ten thousand Shan were living in hiding from the Myanmar Army that just recently attacked and burned villages.

The areas we were allowed to visit were the areas where the poverty was just cute and could be mistaken for the beauty of a simple life.

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That was, incidentally, in the same area as the area where 60 new hotels are being built right now. “60 hotels? That is a lot of land and space,” commented we. “From whom did the hotel moguls get all that land?” “They bought it from the government who has forcibly relocated the villagers who originally lived there,” we were told. “They were forced to leave and they weren’t compensated?” “Yes, and no. They got a little bit of money for their land, but only a symbolic sum. In Myanmar the poor people have no land deeds, so they can’t prove that the land they and their forefathers lived on is actually theirs.” “So what do they end up doing when they can’t  work the land?” “They become day labourers in Thailand, and sometimes here in Myanmar. They have no rights.” I was reminded of the brothels with Burmese young girls. Wonder if any of them came from the villages that no longer existed. Could they have lived on the property of Novotel?

So, just like that, paradise became a lie, and the scenes surrounding us a theatre. It was still lovely and pleasant, but we knew that it was just make-believe.

Where a smart phone is still a novelty

Where a smart phone is still a novelty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met a prince

Tonight we met a man whose grandfather was once a foreign minister and his great grandfather was a prince. He himself runs a small restaurant in a small town in northern Myanmar. He is from the Shan people group. We are going to visit his home and hear more of his story later this week.

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We also ate fish salad, tea leaf salad, eggplant salad and cucumber sesame seed salad. It went great with Myanmar beer and some Burmese dance music.

In the days to come I will try to write regular updates. It is weird and nice that we now can buy SIM cards in Myanmar and there is 3G almost everywhere. That was not the case recently.

Stay tuned.

Creating a new gospel and justifying killing

This mother, she is a Muslim. She loves her baby too.

This mother, she is a Muslim. She loves her baby too.

Over the years I have made some Muslim friends.

Some of them like spicy food. Some don’t. Some of them listen to rap, others to classical music. Some of them are good at the times tables. Some of them suck. Some of them are skinny, others are a bit meatier. Some of them cover their heads, others don’t. Some are well educated; some don’t know how to read. Some sing in a choir, others play soccer.

The Muslim friends I have are as different as wild flowers in a field during summer.

Of course they have some things in common as well: They feel hunger. They get cold. They can feel lonely. They are afraid. Many laugh when they get tickled. They want to live in peace. They are happy when people say nice things to them.

There are exceptions to this rule. A few people in the world don’t appreciate it when they are complemented. But that is usually not because of their religion, but because of some issue in the past that they haven’t dealt with. There are some that don’t desire peace. But I haven’t met any of them. I have, however, met Muslims who have had to flee from the kind of people who desire to hurt and destroy.

Some Muslims decapitate their so-called enemies. Some practice other brutal forms of punishments for minor or major offenses. Some treat women despicably. They have no respect for human rights. The blow themselves and others up. These people are not my friends. I don’t know anybody who would want to be the friends of people who commit such monstrous acts.

Over the years, so-called Christians have also committed atrocities too terrible for words. I don’t consider these people followers of Christ, and their actions are as deplorable as crimes committed by other criminals.

Some times I have talked to my Muslim friends about my faith. And they have shared about theirs. Mostly I have found it interesting and stimulating. They have never rejected me because of my faith. I have never rejected them because of theirs.

Do they look like terrorists to you? Or do they look like the kind of people Jesus asked us to love?

Do they look like terrorists to you? Or do they look like the kind of people Jesus asked us to love?

 

I am a Christian and I have no intentions of changing my religion. I believe in Jesus and I believe in His teachings. I have found that what Jesus taught was the most radical, most life-changing, most peace-making teachings there ever was. Jesus will forever be my example and my hero. He did for example say:

Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God. (Mt.5:9)

I have quoted Mark Twain many times, and I gladly do it again. He said: It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me. It is the parts that I do understand.

Many Christians should be concerned these days. I see a lot of them creating a new gospel. A gospel where it is allowed to pick and choose who we decide to love. A gospel where it is OK to be racist. A gospel where killing is allowed. A gospel where hate is preached loudly and clearly.

I am not sure if these people, calling themselves followers of Jesus, have spent much time reading what he actually taught. How is it possible to love your neighbor like yourself and still endorse people who call for the killing and destruction of families who follow a different faith than ours? How is it that vomiting hate is an OK thing to do when it is aimed at people who follow a different faith, come from different cultures and speak a different language? When, exactly, did Jesus teach that this was all right?

In my Bible, it is recorded that Jesus said this: For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.

He too was created in God's image.

He too was created in God’s image.

Isn’t it interesting that Jesus didn’t say: I was a hungry Christian, and you gave me something to eat. He didn’t say: I was a Christian, not Muslim, stranger and you invited me in. No, it appears that in Jesus’ eyes, people have equal value, no matter where they are from, no matter what they believe, no matter what skin color or first name they have. It is high time we start to follow his example.

Thich Nhat Hanh and me

“To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love,” said Thich Nhat Hanh and I said ouch.

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Understanding needs no language

Over the years I have done so much loving that I think I deserve champion status. I have loved cats (well, not so much) and dogs, kids, friends, neighbors, orphans, widows, aliens and some people whom have been considered unlovely by many. I have loved them to the best of my ability. Often, I admit, the love has been flawed. That little blond boy I had a crush on in second grade may not have appreciated my love so much. Neither have my teenage daughters when they, at times, have been approached by a relatively neurotic mother who wanted to know exactly where they had been, and with who.

The thing about my love is that it has often been offered with wrong intentions and with limited understanding. “Understanding is love’s other name,” continues Thich Nhat Hanh, and I think that this is where most of us miss the mark. We love the way we think love should be expressed, assuming that the receiver of our love sees things exactly how we do. Not only that, but we love based on what we think is right and good.Understanding is creative

 

Once my daughter loved a rabbit so much she hugged him to death. I think that may illustrate my point.

Years ago, getting to know refugees from Burma for the first time, I thought that the best way to love them was to give them all the stuff they didn’t have. I could give them clothes, food, old calendars with photos from Norway, medicines, and nail polish. Thinking I knew what they needed, my love was expressed from a sincere desire to be like Jesus. But over the years I have understood that I misunderstood Jesus, as well as the needs of the refugees. First off, I realized that what I think of as necessities are not always. Refugees don’t need coffee in the morning. I do. Also, I realized that handing them the stuff I thought they needed (and that they in fact did need) was not the best way to love them. Loving people more often means enabling them to provide for themselves.

If I may be so bold, I would like to add to Thich Nhat Hanh’s statement: If understanding is love’s other name, then listening is understanding’s other name. 

See,  I have come to understand that we cannot show true love to another person (nor people group or nation) without first understanding them. And there is no way we can understand them before we take a deep breath, stop thinking we know what the other person thinks and start listening.

So here is my challenge: Start loving with your ears. Become a detective that finds clues while observing the person or the group of people you want to love. You will be surprised to find that love is not always expressed the way you thought it ought to be expressed. It will take some self discipline and a wee bit of humility. But I have the faith that it can be done. It starts with me, and I am my biggest challenge. My heart is small, observes Thich Nhat Hanh. My compassion is limited. He recommends expanding my heart so I can love better.

His suggestions I find life-shattering. Because what he is proposing is that often I love because inside me there is an empty space that needs to be filled, and I try to fill it by loving others. It is only when that empty space is first filled that we can offer real love. When the focus of our love is them and not us, we can really start to understand. It is then that their suffering become our suffering, and their joy becomes ours.

And the question one must ask then, is: If it isn’t from loving others, where does our contentment and joy come from? Thich Nhat Hanh suggests practicing mindfulness which I think is a good place to start. My own personal opinion is that while practicing this mindfulness one will meet God who kindly whispers that his love is enough, and that the value he has given me does not depend on my deeds, but on the fact that I am a child of his.

So, this morning, I am thankful for the thoughts of Thich Nhat Hanh and for the chance to practice love to the people around me. I will seek to understand.

The article that inspired all this thoughts came from my, at the moment, favorite website: Brain pickings 

 

 

 

 

 

Running in the rain, wet, dark and windy world of unreached goals

Had I only looked THIS good, and had I only been accompanied by THIS guy.  Photo credit: Nike

Had I only looked THIS good, and had I only been accompanied by THIS guy.
Photo credit: Nike

My run tonight was wet, dark and extremely windy. I didn´t want to go, to be honest. The deal, however, is that I have a goal, and if I am going to reach my goal I must show up to my dates. My goal is a race I plan to run in December, and the only way I will be able to cross that finish line is by faithfully doing my duty in the weeks leading up to it. Unfortunately for me, most of my training will happen during the darkest, wettest, nastiest month of the year. Which is now. Not only that, but my routes all include uphills, and the one I ran tonight was the worst. It sucked.

At the same time as it sucked, it didn’t. This is the paradox of running in the dark, wet, windy and cold November nights. In a morbid kind of a way, it also feels good. It feels good that my legs move, that my face gets showered with playful raindrops, that my jacket keeps me dry against all odds, that there is a symphony playing all around and there is just me, the dark, the rain and the wind. Even the pain of conquering the hill was a good feeling. I was alive.

The analogy is too obvious, but I will share it anyway. I thought about my other goals while running. They are many. Some are grandiose, like changing the world. Others are more puny, like organising the messy drawer in the kitchen. But I was reminded that none of my goals will be accomplished unless I make an effort. I was also reminded that when one has a goal, there will be obstacles. One makes a choice every time one is faced with one. You can jump over the obstacle, or you can choose to turn and go home to the cozy and warm living room.

I read the most inspiring article today on brainpickings.org Seems like van Gogh and I have a lot of similar thoughts. Just that van Gogh was able to express them so much better than me. In the book: Ever Yours: Essential Letters, he too writes about  goals and of success.

Van Gogh. What a man!

Van Gogh. What a man!

This is what he says to his brother, Theo:

For the great doesn´t happen through impulse alone, and it is a succession of little things brought together. 

Could it be said much better? No goal will be accomplished by good intentions, nor by excuses, such as bad weather. I don´t know everybody´s goals in life, nor do I know all the obstacles people face. But I DO know this: Impulse is not going to create great, unless there  are actions following. Van Gogh continues to tell his brother:

The great isn´t something accidental, it must be willed. 

Then van Gogh graciously continues:

Even if one loses here and there, and even if one sometimes feels a sort of decline, the point is nevertheless to revive and have courage, even though things don´t turn out as one first thought. 

I don´t know the goals people have. I am just barely able to state my own. But, like I am telling myself, I will tell others: Create goals, then reach the goals by stringing many little actions together. Do not let the rain, the wind or the dark stop you from taking step towards fulfilling your goals. If you get there, you can be assured it wasn´t by accident. It was willed, and you fought for it. What feeling could be better?

Way back then, the goal was 5K

Way back then, the goal was 5K

When my life is viewed from a mountain top

I was standing at a mountain top looking down at the world. From my point of view it all looked so small, like a toy-world.  Inside the houses people may have been arguing or making pancakes. Perhaps they were cleaning the fridge or reading a book. It was impossible to tell. And, quite frankly, from where I was standing, it didn’t matter at all. All I could sense was the calm of a world at peace. From my point of view the people in the houses became freakishly insignificant.

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I was taking a peak at my own heart and it was going loopy with thoughts, worries, dreams, nightmares, poems, questions and ideas that I hope nobody else would ever see. There were deadlines I couldn’t possibly meet, bills I didn’t know how to pay, friends I didn’t know what to do with, laundry I didn’t want to deal with, books I wouldn’t ever write and emotions I didn’t know how to control.

I wondered how it was possible to be so noisy on the inside when what I was surrounded by was peace. It was a little bit like my shell was hard as desert tortoises’ shell, when it needed to be porous like sandstone.

You may think I am writing this in an attempt to be deep and poetic. That is actually not the case, because I have realized over the years that I am neither. I am writing it because I am trying to learn that in the big, big picture, my problems are really quite small. In the big, big picture, my problems don’t even show. The fruit flies in my kitchen that are driving my nutso-bananas? In the perspective I saw on the mountain they don’t matter at all. The lack of perfection in my life?  It is a nothing issue. The person who hurt me with remarks that actually stung? Can’t be seen from up on the mountain. The very important paper I need to write, but haven’t started yet? From the mountain top it is of no significance whatsoever.

It is liberating to be in a place where the perspective is different. It is really rather calming to understand that from a distance, big things become very small.

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I think for that reason, we all need to climb some more mountains. We will then see that the things we thought were as important as air, and as big as giants, become small specks that hardly can be seen.

On the other hand…

Our small issues do matter, and they should be given some space. The broken heart? It may seem insignificant from a distance, but close-up, it hurts like a thousand bee-stings. The feeling of failure? It may only be a big deal for you, but it still makes you feel like shit. The worries about the future? It is a worry that can take on the personality of a hungry tiger, and eat you up right there.

See, our big and small problems and worries may be as small as flies poop in the big picture, but when you are the one experiencing it, they feel as big as Mt. Everest.

I think it is weird and confusing, and in the end, I feel like the one who can help me make sense of it, is the One who I believe created me. He cares about my big and small problems. At the same time, He wants me to remember that He is above it all and from his point of view, in the view of eternity, I can just take a chill pill.

His friend, and follower, the Psalmist says it better than I can:

When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
 what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
    human beings that you care for them

Psalm 8:3-4

How to create a storm that blows the crap away

There is a storm roaring outside my office window, branches are flying, leaves are dancing, the rain showers fall horizontally instead of vertically. The storm has been appropriately named: “Roar.” Incidentally, Roar is a boy’s name in Norway. 

From my office I have been watching branch falling and heard of roads closing today.

From my office I have been watching branch falling and heard of roads closing today.

Personally, I am not particularly fond of storms. It keeps me awake at night and I often feel like the house is going to collapse under the pressure of the strong wind. It makes it hard to be outside, and is often accompanied by a lot of rain. It blows things over, and debris fall on people’s heads.

As I am sitting here, barely daring to go outside, I am wondering what is causing a storm. The Internet reminds me of what I learned when I was in school: “Storms are caused when the movement of cold and warm air currents create extreme pressure difference.” http://www.ask.com/science/causes-storms-1bc6db6f4066aa04

How fitting that it would be exactly like that! When warm air meets cold air, then there will be some extreme reaction. Like in my life. Like in the world in general.

There has been such an influx of evil recently. I hate it. Why bother reading the news? One will just be bombarded with images of more evil people doing more evil stuff to innocent beings. Crazy, mentally disturbed people shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun and walk into a school and shoot students who are taking notes. Crazy dictators shouldn’t be allowed to let their nation fall into ruins, and its children die from shrapnels. Ruthless businessmen shouldn’t be allowed to use their money and power to control the environment and the world’s resources. Corrupt politicians shouldn’t be allowed to stay in office when they are stealing the people’s wealth and getting away with it. Religious fundamentalists, whatever their religion, shouldn’t be allowed to kill, murder, injure and control decisions. They shouldn’t.

This is where the storm comes in. The movement of the cold air needs to be stopped. It is getting to freakishly cold here. (Climate change aside. I am talking allegorically here. That the planet is getting warmer, literally warmer, is beyond dispute. But are our hearts getting colder, perhaps?)

According to the weather pros, if enough warm air meets the cold air, then there will be extreme pressure and a storm will be the result. And a storm, scary as it may be, also has some good functions. It blows away all the crap.

I may be naive in my thinking, and I gladly admit it. But if enough of us start acting the opposite way of the world’s evildoers, won’t we also create a storm of sorts?

There are so many things we can do to create some warm air around us. Starting at home by replacing the toilet paper when it is out, is a feeble start. Moving on, we can try to be a bit more understanding of the people who don’t think like us. How about listening more than talking. And how about trying to understand what the person we are listening to is actually trying to say. (Not what his or her mouth is saying, but what his or her heart is trying to convey.) From there we can take a giant leap to how we spend our time and our money. Personally I am kind of into recycling and re-using at the moment. Also, I am on a time-thief quest. I am trying to figure out how a simpler lifestyle for me can make a better life for THEM. (And by THEM I mean the ones who have less just so I can have more.) 

Some children we visited a while back. What are their dreams, and can we make them happen?

Some children we visited a while back. What are their dreams, and can we make them happen?

Then we move on to decision-making and activism. One doesn’t have to be a banner-holding hippie with dreadlocks to be an activist (although those activists for sure have a place, a voice and great value as well.) I will not, and I repeat, will not, vote for politicians who don’t take the Bible’s mandate to care for the poor and oppressed seriously. Neither will I vote for the ones who care nothing for the climate. I will also use my money-spending power. Whenever possible, I will avoid spending money on businesses that stay in business  by breaking human rights.

Activism can take many forms

Activism can take many forms

Do you think that if many enough of us start working on creating warm air to meet the cold air on the planet, we can actually change things? We can’t afford to think not. We can’t afford to just sit by and do nothing. I am dead serious.

Now, where is the best place to buy fairtrade coffee and chocolate?

People are fleeing because I want too many shoes

Rohingya IDPs

Rohingya IDPs

My friend said this: The refugee crisis we have in the world at the moment is because we have too much stuff. For some seconds I thought he was not entirely in touch with the state of affairs we are in right now—here on planet Earth.

It seems to me we have a refugee crisis because rotten leaders are leading rottenly, and people fleeing just have rotten luck all the way. My cluttered attic has less to do with the current plight. Is my over-stuffed shoe-shelf the reason millions are fleeing warn-torn countries?

We live in an unjust world, my friend continued, and I thought he was getting closer to the core issue. But still I wasn’t sure about the issue of my stuff. My closet is bulging. This causes stress whenever I buy a new dress or shirt because I am out of hangers. But I never considered that it would cause families to pack a few belongings and head for an unknown future in an unknown land.

The uncomfortable truth is that my friend is right. I knew it all along, but didn’t want to admit it. Realizing one is part of the problem is never a good feeling. Realizing that solving the problem will require giving up some of what I think is rightfully mine stings. Fact: I have been teaching teenagers the exact same thing over the past week. I just didn’t want my theory to affect my own comfortable lifestyle.

Why do people get trafficked? I would ask the teens. Why do wars start? Why do people flee their homes, leaving all they know and love behind? The answer varied every time I asked. But sooner or later a bright youngster would raise his or her hand and ask: Is it because of poverty? Bingo! said I. Then somebody else would add: And oppression? Score! I replied.

When parents can’t feed their children, when governments don’t build schools in villages, when adults have no jobs to go to, when vaccines cost more than a family can pay, when doctor fees are higher than a monthly income, when privileges are not yours because of your race, skin color or religion, people feel desperate. When, in addition to an already impossible situation, soldiers come and attack, people  seem to do one of three things:

1. They continue to be desperate and hope the situation will change, trying their best to improve it. 2. They join a group that will use whatever means possible to bring what they perceive justice to be. This may not be justice the way we think of it. This may be “justice” in the form of revenge. 3. They flee.

Then there is the other question that is harder to answer: Why are people poor and oppressed? We could answer that they are poor because they come from poor countries. But that is not necessarily true. In Myanmar people are ranked among the world’s poorest. Yet, the country is bursting with natural resources. The reasons nations are poor are as many as beads on a pearl necklace. For many it started all those years ago when the countries were colonized and plundered. Kind of like getting polio as a child and never recovering. Not that I am an expert on the theme, but it seems to me that every country that once was a colony is still trying to learn how to walk. Think Sudan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Myanmar and others. That the leaders who have led since have been as capable as sea slugs have made already big problems bigger.

One would think that western nations who once stole resources and distorted cultures would want to make things better now that we are wealthy and fine, and they are still stuck in the mud. What poor nations are given by the West, however, are unfair trade deals, aid dependency and climate change.

So I am getting myself into a tangle here, and while I am struggling to put my thoughts together, I see myself getting labels such as communist and worse. I am not. I am just trying to understand why the world it so unfair, and I am seeing that the answer is not black and white. There is no one correct answer to the question: Why do people flee their homes and their countries? There is no simple solution. All I know is this: It is so heart-wrenchingly unfair.

One can have many opinions on economics and the solution to poverty. I am not an economist, just an ordinary woman who knows about myself that I could do so much more. One of the things I could do is to stop spending my money on stuff that I don’t really need, just want. So in that respect my friend was absolutely right. If all of us just spent a little less on ourselves, and a little more on them, we would already be a on the way to solving the refugee crisis. If we also could convince our leaders that cheap gas, diamonds, teak furniture, new smart phones every two years and designer purses don’t matter that much to us, then they too may start changing their politics.

Jesus was ahead of us in his thinking, and I wish we would all be better at following his example and commands:

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.” (Luke 12:33)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can lives be saved on Facebook?

I am not sure why it has taken me so long to say something. It has been brewing for months. No, let’s say years. And now it is at the boiling point. Or, should we say it is boiling over. I am of course talking about the crazy, insane, terrible, heart wrenching, atrocious, to-cry-over refugee situation that is unfolding in front of our eyes in Europe.

The last couple of weeks the images of desperate people fleeing the horrors of war have haunted me. The photo of the weeping dad holding his children.

refugee crisis 3

Photo by Daniel Etter

The photo of families creeping under the barbed-wire fences built to keep them out. Children crying. The photo of the dad with a sleeping child on his shoulders, selling pens to provide for his family.

syrian dad

Unknown photographer

And today, the photos of little Aylan dead on a beach in Turkey.

refugee crisis 2

Photo by STRINGER/TURKEY / REUTERS

Later watching an interview with his dad, full of grief and guilt. He was not able to save his little family from drowning. Now his two sons and his wife are all gone. “All I want to do is to sit by their graves,” he said, lips quivering.

I have watched the news and read the papers, I have followed the trail of refugees online and I have marveled at our politicians and leaders who seem to be moving in molasses when decisions have to be made. Worse still are the politicians who consistently claim that our countries cannot and should not, under any circumstance, allow any of these desperate people to cross our borders. I watch, listen and wonder how they got in a position of power. Who were the people who elected them? Not my friends, I hope.

Little by little it is dawning on me: Why am I sitting here, watching the biggest refugee crisis the world has seen since WWII unfold in front of my eyes? Why am I waiting for our politicians to make up their minds about the value of human lives? Why do I think that I am personally exempt from getting involved? These people are me, they are my children, my husband, my friends and neighbors. Why should I not personally help them?

While discouraged about the lack of concern of the world leaders, and appalled by callous attitudes by some, I am also starting to see a movement across the world. I read today about a couple who sold their car and their vacation tickets to get money to help. I heard of a man seeing the photo of the dad selling pens for a living finding out who the man in the photo was, then raising thousands of dollars for him and his family. (http://www.techinsider.io/photo-of-a-syrian-man-trying-to-sell-pens-2015-9) I hear of families giving away their clothes and other belongings, of others offering a place to stay. I hear of children doing bake sales, and of grandmothers raising funds.

There may be some big mouths with loud voices saying that we are over-burdened, and in no place to help desperate people. There may be people in power who are more concerned by the next election than by people coming to their shores. But am starting to see that there is also a new move, a wave of people who are willing to do more than talk. They are taking the issue in their own hands and they are doing the only right thing to do: Getting involved.

They are doing more than clicking Like on Facebook posts. They are doing something that involve sacrifice and work. They are refusing to let history to be made. They are making history. They are not the bystanders. They are the movers. May the number of people like these multiply many times!

As I am writing this I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr. who said “It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”

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