On the Hillside

‘Just Love’ - It sounds so simple, or maybe it doesn’t, but it certainly isn’t – or is it!! As I mentioned briefly at the end of my most recent post, I have started to struggle with the mission to ‘Just Love’, but maybe I am not. As I prepared to write this post and explored the subject a little more deeply, I realized a lot of very obvious things about relationships. In short, each relationship I have here is going to have a different strength, a different bond, and different importance - just like at home.

It is okay to have thoughts and opinions about people, but it is important to try and develop those thoughts and opinions on my own. For me, the ‘Just Love’ is making sure that my thoughts about a person do not interfere with my being open to loving them and recognizing if they have need. I admit, there are few patients who I have had difficulty connecting with and showing them availability and love, but I will keep working on that.

Well... now I am stuck without much of a post! While I try and think of what I want to talk about next, here is something I found in my reflection on just love. When you will likely never speak a language well enough to get to know someone, I have learned that so far you communicate through smiles, nods, bows, helpfulness, gifts, food, and the occasional intentional touch. See, things here are not so much different than they are where you are!

High: I opened my own fresh coconut this week without slicing or removing any of my precious digits!!! It didn’t look pretty and I was a sweaty mess, but I didn’t bath in the coconut water while opening it, so it is a success. It has also been a tremendous food week between different canomes, amazing dishes at lunch, and being championed for eating spicier food than 1 of my co-workers. They also pleasantly commented on the fact that I am able to eat “everything”.

Low: I was a little bit sick this week, headache, runny nose, and chills that lasted only 2 days. My co-workers were gracious and sent me home on Tuesday and let me take naps in the afternoon both Wednesday and Thursday. Krisida kindly reassured me that Dengue Fever season is pretty much over, and it is likely just the weather change! My feeling ill derailed my exercise, Thai, and guitar, but I’ll get back on track this week. 

Okay, so my thought process just took a big turn, but maybe I will be able to tie them together in the end. I have started to recognize that one of the biggest barriers to the humane treatment of people is marginalization. I should know more about this, after all the organization I am volunteering for specifically targets poor and marginalized women, adolescents, and children. When I say it, it seems obvious; those who are on the margins are not cared for, are offered fewer services, and are mostly outside of the public consciousness. But how did they get there? Do most of these people choose to be on the margin?

I am starting to think that people end up on the margins because we put our own plights ahead of theirs. The first example that comes to mind is voting for people who we know will cut mental health services so that we do not see a tax increase. Sure, it is complicated – for example maybe we don’t trust the government to spend our money wisely, have a conscientious objection to an aspect of the services offered, or have a religious or philosophical objection of some sort. For the most part though, does anyone deserve to be pushed to the margins? Can we not help them off of the margins and meet them as a person before judging their character? I understand that there will always be individuals on the margins, but we should be able to help groups relegated there for the same reasons or cluster of reasons.

If we are not willing to pay increased taxes for social services, are we willing to support organizations who do care for these people? How would we choose what organizations we support? Are there groups of diseases, problems, or people that we are not willing to put our money toward? Why

Yes, it seems like there are limited resources and an unlimited amount of marginalized people. I have been as guilty, if not guiltier, than most when it comes to doing my part, but I think as a national and international community, we can do so much better. I am also starting to feel that politicians in America may not be equipped to deal with the problems of these people, or maybe we are electing the wrong ones, or the ones with about as much gumption as we have surrounding the problems.

I am afraid of a growing indifference to the lives and needs of the marginalized. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves, “do we care about the struggles, biases, and inequalities that are faced by the black, brown, GLBT, mentally disabled, HIV/AIDs, and poor communities?” (just to name a few). Have we made any effort to understand their difficulties and challenges, or do we use anecdotes and stereotypes like “poor? They have a newer cell phone than me,” “half of them are illegal,” or “they chose to be a criminal” to justify their marginalization. Just as easily and just as indifferently, we can just say “the problem is too big to fix.”

I take some solace in the amazing passion and initiative I saw in the group of newer adults I had the honor of spending a week with at the GSV orientation. I take comfort in the fact that most of the people who make up my community have good hearts and do care about these bigger issues. But I am afraid that as election campaigns mount (a time when real social issues should be discussed as a nation), a social blindness and growing indifference will slowly worsen the situation of large groups of people whom have so much to offer, so much to teach us, and more love & tolerance than we may be capable of.

"I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb." - Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom

I wish I felt I had reached the top of the first hill.

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