Suffer Not…

October 21, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot about suffering lately. It cruised into my head a few days ago, parked and decided to stay a while; not actual suffering, but rather thoughts in and around the topic. And in my ponderings I have thought things that are in no way new to me. These reflections, however, seem to be hitting me in a fresh new way. I am really starting to wonder why on earth suffering exists on the level of regularity it does.

Yeah, yeah, I can hear the rebuttals already, “We live in a fallen world,” and “Suffering is necessary to grow character,” and so on and so forth. I agree. And I am even thankful for the suffering that I have been through in my life because, for the most part, it was used to form me into a stronger, more insightful and empathetic person; for the most part I said. But even in acknowledging these facts about the presence of suffering in the world, I still cannot grasp, at this point in time, how on earth we as humans allow others to live in the daily suffering a vast majority of people live in. Lately I’m finding it cruel, and inhumane. How can this be?

Maybe it starts with us not wanting to take responsibility for others’ sufferings. “We’ve got our own problems,” right? And if we don’t, we don’t want them! We also often tend to shift the blame or responsibility to a Higher Power. “God got us into this mess, and it’s His responsibility to get us out,” or acting as though all that can be offered for another’s suffering are prayers from afar, because a mere mortal is not capable of such a divine intervention. Some Believers would even say it’s blasphemous for us to be “arrogant enough” to say or think we could do anything to relieve the suffering of another; “that’s God’s job”. But what keeps hitting me over, and over, and over again is the realization that we humans have the capacity to end the suffering of others.

Like, I am literally talking about completely abolishing the majority of suffering on the earth. It is totally possible! In the same way humans are responsible for causing so much suffering, in the form of injustice, inequality, oppression, hate and selfishness, they can be equally responsible for removing it through seeking justice, repatriation, leading others to liberation, love and selflessness. Some famous dude once said something to the extent of, “Suffering only exists because good people allow it to” (at least I think someone said that, because I can’t believe I made that up). That’s what I’m talking about!

Poverty in the world could be eradicated by evenly distributing the wealth of the world. Hungry people could be fed with the excess of food glutinous people indulge in on a daily basis. One person’s bad day could be completely turned around by a random act of kindness from a stranger, or even a friend. An ear could be offered to someone “suffering in silence”, so at the very least, that individual is no longer trapped in that prison of silence. Suffering, for the most part, is really just the lack of relief from an unpleasant experience. And the pungent thing is, we all have the power within us to offer that very needed relief, in most situations, in one form or another. And all it takes is for good people to act.

Don’t get me wrong! I am in no way making light of the suffering that people go through. When I look at some of the situations people live in I am deeply saddened, and even appalled at times. But what is even more appalling to me is the thought that someone’s suffering could be ended, or at least toned down, by a selfless act of another, and yet good people rather keep to themselves, in turn holding back that much needed relief. And you know what? It does not matter what your situation is, or how “bad off” you think you may be, there is always someone in a worse off situation. So, something positive from your perceived “bad off” situation, could be used for the good to totally uplift someone in a “worse off” situation; the value of mere camaraderie at the very least.

Evil reigns when good people don’t intervene. Hate is really just the lack of love. Injustice occurs when we decide to turn a blind eye. Suffering exists when those with the capacity to offer relief from that suffering choose not to act, or at least don’t choose to act. I have decided to become more aware of this, not just in the situations of those who I have invited into my life, but also with those who just pass in and out, who may remain nameless. For this season, my question for the day, whether on a macro or micro level, is, “What can I do to end the suffering of another?”. And I’m looking for answers.


What Are You Complaining About?!

October 19, 2010

The other night a kid (well, he used to be a kid when I met him ten years ago) called me in a bit of a desperate frenzy. Things are just not working out the way he expected, or wants them to, and it’s all getting to him. I could hear through the phone he needed a tangible, touchable friend, and a hug, so I drove to town at midnight and picked him up. That was last week.

Sunday night he called me from town again. He sounded a bit better than before, but still not so hot. I offered to come and pick him up again and he took me up on the offer before the offer was fully out of my mouth. He spent most of his early childhood on the streets, and then in and out of jail. He has, however, been doing really good the past couple of years, with a job and positive attitude leading to some positive choices. But things seem to be going all Chinua Achebe on him right now; Things Fall Apart. He’s confused, angry, hurt, sad, lonely, unsure what to do (that is legal to do), and so on. For now, he is back on the streets.

So Sunday night when we got to the house he asked if I had any food. Unfortunately I did not have all that much in my cupboards. There were some week old leftovers in the fridge that I was not wanting to subject him to, but he retorted, “Week old, shmeek old!”, or the likes of that sentiment at least. He poured a half a bottle of chilli sauce on the week-old, half eaten chicken burger and shrivelled up chips. He had nothing but compliments to the invisible chef. It was not all that much food and after he finished it off he was still hungry, probably from not eating a proper meal for a few days.

I had Cornflakes but no milk. He said, “Not to worry…” he can just use hot water. So, I poured him a bowl of Cornflakes, he sprinkled some sugar on top, poured some warm water over it and popped it in the microwave. He ate that bowl of Cornflakes with his eyes closed, making continuous “mmmmmm” noises, as though it was the best meal he had ever eaten. He even said it was the best meal he’d had all week. Cornflakes drenched in hot water!

Why am I telling you this? Because we, that have so much, still have the nerve to find things to complain about. And there that grown up kid stood in my kitchen eating watery Cornflakes with his eyes closed, savoring every bite. Let’s take stock and be grateful for what he have. No mater how bad it may be, there is always someone out there in a worse off situation. There’s even people with no Cornflakes.

Random Thought #105

October 17, 2010

Insecurities can be so incredibly crippling. They hold us back from having the realist, truest social interactions, because we miss the intentions behind the interactions and see what our warped filter tells us to see.

So, About Leaving Cape Town Indefinitely…

October 15, 2010

Man, the closer it gets to me leaving South Africa indefinitely the more I realize how wrong it is, how wrong it feels. My Mom and ten-year-old brother Eli just visited for ten days. We had a great time, and I saw them off at the airport last night, with the underlying feeling of dread hanging heavy in my stomach, moving up and causing a lump in my throat. No, that feeling did not just come from being sad to see my Mom and Eli go, because I know I will see them in about a month. And THAT very thought is what caused the dread. I will leave here in just a month!!!!


Pooly Potter says I didn’t leave any room for help in my last blog. Like, I just said, “Hey, I’m leaving and there’s nothing you or anyone can do about it so there, eat it!” I guess I kind of did. But That’s not what I really meant to do, I don’t think. I mean yeah, I am leaving in November (the 24th to be exact) and it still is indefinitely (which I am becoming more and more anxious about), but as I said in the last blog, South Africa is still my home, and I still want to be here. But the “volunteer” phase to my life has come to an end and I need to be here in a way of more permanency (at least on paper, because I have been here pretty permanently for the past ten years), and in a way I can support myself, and hopefully, eventually even some kids I want to be able to take in, also permanently.

Just the other night I got a call around midnight, from a kid in town having a bit of a nervous breakdown, with suicidal talk, crying, mixed with general “not knowing what to do”. I jumped in my car, drove to town, picked him up and brought him home. The next day he was smiling again, at least for that morning. I can’t leave that behind! The next day we took a kid out for his birthday and when he walked up to the car his face was all contorted from, what he says, was a stroke; a seventeen year old having a stroke?!?! What’s going on?! Then there’s marriage proposal after marriage proposal I am getting from all my amazing friends wanting to help me out with my residential status; two from guys! And just love, lot’s and lot’s of love, everywhere I go, mixed with the sadness of leaving it all behind.

Ok, so none of this may be making sense to you. But to me, these experiences, along with others in the past two weeks, have just been used to show me my time here is not done, but I still need to rework things and be here in the way that I can actually BE here in the fullest of capacity that I know I can and should be. I think I had to risk losing all this to rediscover why I love it so much, and my purpose within it. Sometimes we forget what we have until we lose it. I still have to go in November, and yes I’ve got some stuff in my head and heart to work out, but I want to try and get back ASAP in a new and improved way. So, Pooly, and anyone and everyone else listening, this is me calling out and saying “help a brother out”. I need permanent residency and employment. HELP!