These past few months have been very trying to me personally. For me, these struggles reaffirm the old proposition Plato and Aristotle make when they suggest the health of the body and soul are connected. Amidst a broken nose and a knee injury which has limited my mobility I can't help but feel at times that I'm catching a bad break. But then I think of what these challenges do for us. Would it be possible for us to become stronger in mind and soul without challenges to the body in which those manifest? I think not. Of course the connection between the body and soul is as easy as "when one is happy, the other is happy" but from my experiences with Leila I've learned that happiness is only truly found in the context of true suffering. After all, life is a bit of a roller coaster and one only knows when they've reached an emotional and spiritual high when they've witnessed and experienced rock bottom, only to have that bottom pulled out from underneath them. I recall a carpenter Leila introduced me to among one of my first outings with her. This man was raised to be the supporter of his entire family, had received an education that would allow him to do so, but as the brightest flames are often the quickest to be blown away, lost the use of his legs in a car accident. Here he was sitting in front of me, a man in suffering that would inevitably become a source of hope not only for those around him, but for me as well. While sitting with him, after receiving a few warning glances from Leila not to inspire too much hope too quickly, as only so much can be done for one person struggling among so many I proposed a set up that would allow him to work as a carpenter. His eyes lit up, an image that will forever live in my mind as one of those few first moments that set me on this path. As the tears began welling in his eyes I couldn't believe the amount of happiness this man had received in being able to put his mind and body at work again. When I met him, stranded in bed being taken care of by what little those around him could offer, it seemed that the suffering of the body and soul went hand in hand. And suddenly, with a way to put his body to work again, to overcome the true suffering that occurs with having not just your livelihood but your means to your livelihood in the context of your physical body taken away it seemed that he had found a happiness that many of us take for granted. My own struggles recently have reminded me of this man. Amidst broken bones and the hurdles I've had to climb to publish and promote Committee of One I continue to appreciate that only in suffering are we able to understand happiness. It amazed me that I could see children at play, even in the rundown streets with sewage flowing through them, children smiling with what little they had, women simply happy to be able to work, all of these refugees and children of refugees were truly appreciative that they themselves were some way, in control of the lives that had been handed to them. Is it control that we seek among chaos? Is it a break from the suffering? That one chance? I do not believe so. I believe it is the opportunity that Leila provided, the opportunity for these people to flourish among what are by far the greatest odds against them.
This picture is a reminder that while many of us in the West live in brick and mortar homes, thousands of refugees currently live in tents, or out in the elements unprotected from harm. When you see this I hope you will realize that this is not a problem of the past. In 2011 1,934,520 refugees world wide sought asylum according to Wikipedia. Though the problem is large you can make a difference. One way to help is to become informed. Contact your governor's office to learn about the resettlement of refugees in your area. You might find an entire community of refugees in your own neighborhood. You can help by becoming a mentor or donating items for the refugees that come here. Many are forced to leave behind all they own and start afresh. Mentors help newcomers navigate grocery stores and teach them to cook with new ingredients, use a washer and dryer or catch a city bus. You can lend your time to teach a person new to your area about life in your city. If you have ever mentored a refugee family, please share your experience with us.
I had the wonderful opportunity to be interviewed by Cyrus Webb on Conversations LIVE. I hope you will take this opportunity to listen to my interview. Leave your comments below on how you make a difference in your community.