Monday, February 24, 2014

The One I Am In The Mirror

There are some moments in our lives when we accidentally stop in front of a mirror, and we might ask ourselves, “What have I done?” It's not always an everyday question, one might say, but perhaps it is good to take some time to ask that question and ponder our answers.
I'm prompted by the memory of Yahidah, a migrant worker who used to work as a maid, and had  passed away over a year. Her two children are now being raised by her younger brother and her own mother. It's complicated, and very difficult. Poverty is something that has to be experienced in order to know it. The helplessness, the anxiety, the struggle to live - you only know it when you are in it. Somewhat different and questionably less difficult is to know about such a situation, and be unable to do anything about it. Except to write about it, in my case. For that was the answer I gave to that
question recently.

Being aware of such situations is one thing. Being able to do something about it, depends on one's self. For anything that we do, no matter how we would describe it, eventually is a reflection of what we are, what we think is important - and also points out the things that we did not give enough importance to do. An omission is not always a conscious effort, is not always a matter of free will, and sometimes, events conspire to make it happen. But knowing that does not mean that an open heart is not cut up when trying to own up to omissions that seem to make humanity a little less brighter, a little less hopeful.

Yes, we are all called to live, no one is born to die, so to speak. How we live our lives, is a matter which we often take for granted. But most of the time, we would have dreams, good intentions, values which are not often put into words but are seen clearly in our mind's eyes. Yet, how often do we really care about what it is that we consider as our will to live, our self that is ours alone, good, free, and something which we are proud of?

Indeed, is there anything of our self that is ours alone that is good, free, and which we can be proud about? While we may have our talents and our endeavours in life, in terms of family, businesses, hobbies, or even lifestyles, it would seem very evident that we don't have anything that is ours alone. Even our thoughts seem to be an echo from some other time and place, some other person or book.

There are geniuses, one might say, but there are also mad persons, and the fact of the matter is, we can still relate to these people - we know who they are, and as such we are related to them, even if the relationship is not easy. No one is fully a mystery - God even is knowable to some limited degree. Someone whom we don't know, is not there. What happens to the people we know, yet, for some reason, we seem unable to relate to them meaningfully?

In our modern life, we're used to this situation. In any neighbourhood, even in our own houses, we know people, but we can't relate to them. Not every person we meet has to be involved in the most fascinating relationship with us that we have ever had, every five seconds or so. But maybe that is the problem, which we all ignore. Why shouldn't all these persons be the most fascinating person that we have ever met, until then? Would it dull us? Are we capable of being bored or tired out by people, as it were?

While our physical limits are there to tell us it is time to rest and recuperate, yet there still remains the question of the quality of our relationships. Which also tells us, how we understand and value the people that we meet, whether we like it or not.

I'm still grappling with the idea that I can only write about Yahidah and her family. There can be so much more that can be done, but I will admit, I don't know the best way, and perhaps I think there is no such thing as the best way. I would like to say that any way which makes a difference is all that matters. But in the face of poverty, there always seems to be a demand for more, more, more. Which makes me inclined to say that to give, give, give, is to actually not change the situation, which is what these poor people want.

True, a starving person would not appreciate those words, a crying beggar child on the street will just be as sad, angry, hungry as before, and perhaps even hurt by these words if they knew what it meant. I feel that being in poverty sometimes is like being in grief. However, unlike poverty, grief heals in time - and there are daily life events that always open up the wounds of poverty, like being hungry. Time, in this case, is no friend of poverty, unlike grief. Yet, being in poverty is like being in grief, still, as those in poverty are often blinded, often overcome by the overpowering visceral bindings that never seem to let up at any time.

Perhaps that is why when faced with poverty, it is better to approach these persons as if they were in grief. To comfort them, to try to make sure their needs are taken care of, but most importantly, to take their hands, remind them there is light and good and happiness, and help them to claim it for themselves, to stay with them thick and thin in their despair, their helplessness, their grieving of the fate of their lives, so to speak.

For, in a sense, poverty is arbitrary - no one can dictate the lives they are born into. But that does not mean we leave those in poverty to be on their own. No, the question then arises about the values, the self of our selves, in relation to our fellow human beings. There are many difficult conditions faced by people in daily lives, even amongst the ones whom we know well - yet, the values which we hold, which we express, should not differentiate to the point of discrimination. Yes, there are some people we don't like - but really, had that dislike changed the person, or ourselves?

Like it or not, who we are, is sometimes questionable. Are we able to say, with all honesty, that we have been true to ourselves, good in our works, and feel that we have a legacy we can pass on to the next generation? I can only question myself, for myself. For now I might suggest that there are other ways of looking at poverty - with the help of other like minded persons, for example. But is that enough for Yahidah's orphaned children? I would never know - until I put aside the mirror I have been holding, and go out into the world to try to do something I have never done before, to try to do something good as far as I know it is, and hopefully be able to encourage others to do the same. For that reason, I do as I can now, to write, but as the heart always never lies, even without the mirror, I know I will always have more to do.