This I believe.
Ever since I was in 5th grade I wanted to change the world. For a long time I believed it was possible to do so. But at some point as I got older I started to wonder if what we did really made any difference at all.
I have to admit I have always been one of those “bleeding heart” types. I stop when I see that someone needs help. I move animals out of the road in case they are still alive (I even turn around and drive back long ways to do this).
Last night I watched the movie “A Raisin in the Sun”, based on the play by Lorraine Hansberry. This was my favorite book in 5th grade. At one point the grandmother says: “There’s always something left to love. When do you think is the time to love somebody the most? When he’s done good and made things easy for everybody? No, no — no, that ain’t the time at all. It’s when he’s at his lowest and he can’t believe in himself because the world done whipped him so…You make sure you’ve taken into account the hills and the valleys to get to where he is….”
After Hurricane Katrina, something got into me. I just had to act. I dropped everything in my life to start an organization, Acupuncturists Without Borders, to send volunteer acupuncturists to New Orleans and offer free acupuncture (community style) to those suffering from stress and trauma. One thing led to another, and by now we have treated 8,000 people in New Orleans, in the Black, White, Latino and Vietnamese communities. People tell us we have saved their lives, that we have allowed them to function and participate in their own recovery and much, much more.
Volunteers who have worked with us come back and say the work changed THEIR lives. Some are starting community clinics, to be able to make this incredible medicine affordable to larger numbers of people. When you give in this way, you become so much larger.
I have been so busy making this all work, that I haven’t looked back much. But when I take a glimpse, I see the enormous difference this work has made for so many people. And all it has taken from me is a little more than a year of my life…that is not much….I think I am starting to believe, again, that when we commit, I mean REALLY commit, to action, it can truly transform the world. This is the first time I have said this. I’m almost scared to say it. What does this mean, then, about my ongoing responsibility, if I now know this to be true?
I wish that this country had undertaken a Marshall Plan to help those on the Gulf Coast. That was what was called for…it hasn’t happened.
Now we are starting programs around the country to treat veterans returning from war, with free acupuncture again for stress and trauma. And again, we are finding the results and impact to be incredible!
This I believe: After disaster and crisis, in the community rebuilding process, similar to an individual’s healing process, there is the possibility for huge transformation, if the right support is available. I’ll never forget the handpainted sign hanging in New Orleans that said: “With Help We Can Help Ourselves”.
This I believe: How we as a people respond to humanitarian crises, to those suffering and to those underserved,, represents perhaps our greatest opportunity to heal many of the roots of violence, and therefore, to sow the seeds of world peace. How can we afford not to act?
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.