We live in a digitally connected society where empathy is easier to cultivate than ever before. I can’t escape that imagine of Mike Brown’s mother on my social media channels. Even if I’ve never lived the experience of a young, black man, I’m reading it and hearing it and cannot ignore it. The trick is, can we translate that incredible exposure to someone else’s struggle into change in our own lives?
When I lived in NYC, I learned a very important and intriguing lesson that launched me off on my career in global citizenry: no matter how very different we look, dress, and life our lives, we all share so much in common. The ultimate NYC blog that has captured these sentiments — “Humans of New York” (HONY) — is now setting off on a 50-day international journey to document lives all over the planet. I hope you’ll choose to follow HONY; the more we expose ourselves to those who, initially, seem very ‘different’ than us, the more we begin to see common themes, break down stereotypes, build new relationships, increase our tolerance, minimize our assumptions, and live more peaceful lives.
Ebola is not only a serious public health threat for people in and around West Africa; it’s a global threat, thanks to how easily we travel nowadays. Living in a globalized world truly means that one nation’s crisis—whether it’s public health, terrorism, or murderously oppressive states—is a crisis for each of us. Do what you can to minimize suffering; sometimes your power is more than you think.
Sometimes we think of conflicts as being “over there” and can forget that the victims of war aren’t so different from our baby cousins or our recently married friends. No civilian asks for war. We can speak up in solidarity with Afghan people and speak out against terrorism at the same time. | So many Americans risk their lives for their country, and yet so many of them struggle to get appropriate health care, employment, and other services when they return home from war. | Lend a hand!
Many of my fellow activists were en route to the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne last week when Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot out of the sky. In an instant, the innocent passengers became casualties of a war in which they had never enlisted. Though there is little to say in the face of such senseless tragedy, I felt compelled to reflect on the response of AIDS activists over past decades to another “war”—on HIV—that has caused incredible suffering.
Be aware of the situations others are fleeing from, which are, in some cases, humanitarian emergencies. Be aware that many of them, especially young adults who had come as children, did not ask to be in the situation they are in right now. Be aware that our planet is connected; we are transient, and more than ever before, we’re all global citizens, regardless of your flag. Our best chances for survival with dignity are to make efforts to understand one another—not push each other away.
“Hatred and anger cannot heal a broken heart.” For those who have the time, passion, and resources to become outspoken political activists about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Godspeed. But for anyone eager to promote healing and peace, regardless of political affiliation, your success in building new friendships is just as helpful to forging a future that aspires toward peace, dignity, and respect for all human beings.