"It will always be difficult, but if you cry like this every time, you will die of heartbreak. Just know that it is enough sometimes to know that it is difficult."
- TED2008, Chris Abani's talk on Humanity
I stumbled upon this quote today while looking through an old document and it struck me how fitting it is here. One of the standard 4 boys at Olives died very suddenly on Friday. We aren't sure what happened (I'm not sure that anyone really knows) but he was at school in the morning, went home ill at lunch, and, before the end of the day, he was gone. From the bits that we did get, it's possible that he had some sort of chronic condition.
Everyone, local and volunteer teachers alike, was visibly upset by the news. The local staff was clearly sad, but calm. I watched the classroom teacher cry and move forward, obviously aware of the reality of life for our students. For us, it was an abrupt reminder of where we are and the risks our children face. At home, there would have been a medical record and a hospital visit. The likelihood of such a sudden death is low. Here, we didn't even know that he was sick.
I think the local staff understood something that is harder for us to grasp. Here life and death are both clearly visible. People don't shy away from either. Rather, they embrace the good bits in preparation for the bad ones and recognize that you can't dwell in the sad spaces. It just gets too hard. The sad truth is that things like this are part of life in the village and dwelling on them doesn't make them any easier. It's enough to recognize the tragedy for what it is and move forward.
I think this same principle applies to the world at large. Everywhere I look there is a problem to be solved, a person to be helped - a war, a natural disaster, poverty. If I stop to think about every single person that needs help, it's too much. I can't cry for every single one. I would never stop. The best that I can do, that anyone can do, is to know that they are there and validate their struggle. Then, instead of letting it overwhelm me, I focus on what I can do and try to make it a little less difficult in whatever corner of the world I've got.