Line up for love

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“I continually see how blessed the life I have been given is and I hope I never forget this. Yes, sure life will hurt sometimes but I wasn’t born in a society where there’s mutilation of women, corruption, and injustice at every turn. I wasn’t born into a society that if I weren’t a boy I would never get a say, let alone an education or any rights. And I don’t live in a society that if I didn’t have a son I would be left by my husband and left with nothing.” –Alicia Fish, 19, working for a year in Nepalese orphan homes

This is about the holidays, about Black Friday. This is about gift-giving. People probably say what I’m about to say every year, but it hasn’t seemed to really sink in yet. So I’ll say it again, for my little sister and for violence and abuses everywhere, for world issues that we have the power to change.

My younger sister wrote to me from Nepal a few weeks ago in near despair. “Abuse is rampant and I’ve seen it myself,” she said. The girls, especially, are the biggest victims of the corruption and desperation. She tells me how the girls in Nepal pray that they will be boys in the next life. “It’s bad to say and totally horrendous, but when they’re older, can speak English, and have boobs, it makes them all that much more valuable.” There is always the underlying fear that the girls are at risk to be sold again, when many of them have already been rescued from trafficking.

The hope for her is the good will of volunteers, her own work with the children, striving to help them, love them. She described herself as “safety” for the children. The children grab onto her legs, arms, and she pours her love back into their hearts. She’s giving all of herself.

I read recently that Americans spend $450billion on Christmas gifts each year.

When I see statistics like that, I think of the mud and cockroaches that dampen and crawl through so many beds, the polluted water that enters so many mouths, the little girls that have no escape, no education, and the children who do not dare to dream because they cannot afford it.

Did you know the estimated cost to solve the world water problem by building wells and providing sanitary water to impoverished nations is estimated at $10 billion?

Then there are hundreds of other projects for causes—projects like Heal Africa, where monthly donations can provide Safe House services, education, HIV testing, and counseling to rape survivors in the Congo. There are organizations and not-for-profits that struggle to survive. A woman in Turkey told me this summer, “We don’t know if we can keep the lights on next month or if I will get a paycheck this week.” The average life of an NGO for women’s rights in Turkey is two years due to lack of funding. There are associations to help, people to feed, abuses to stop.

When we spend $450billion on starbucks gift cards and scarves, stocking stuffers, and line up for the latest laptop sale (or iphone, or ipod), we are giving to others. We want to tell the people we love most that we care. What would it mean if we told them, “I cared enough about you to give a local crisis center $50 in your name; it will provide people who’ve just had a horrible traumatic experience to survive.”? Or, I gave to give a little girl an education; or, I gave to give a rape survivor free HIV-testing. I gave to get an orphan out of the cycle of trafficking. I gave to stop abuse. I gave to support a volunteer in Thailand. I gave to give hope.

Imagine, for us who don’t have time to give a year of ourselves like my little sister in Nepal, imagine if we gave gifts this holiday season to fix world issues.

I personally have seen how much organizations struggle to do any good work in ending trafficking, violence, etc, because of lack of funding, and there are so many to support. From The Polaris Project to Apne Aap to the Family Violence Prevention Center of Orange County, good work is being done everywhere (nationally, internationally and locally); the list of good work can never be exhausted.

If you and I give in these ways, whose life will we touch? Imagine if instead of a gift certificate to a restaurant, I got a gift certificate that said, “A child just got a year’s worth of education.” What would that feel like?

Some people might be pissed—the ipod or the iphone is way better than some person you can’t touch or see or even hear their voice. But I want to try it. Invest in people. Invest in relationships, spark a conversation, start a revolution where it’s cool to give people gifts you actually gave someone else, someone who needed it more. I don’t want to line up outside Best Buy on Black Friday. I want to line up outside the soup kitchen, line up outside the Crisis Center. Or get online and research on Charity Navigator. Line up for love. Not things.

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Written by carolinashley

November 26, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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