Last week my husband told me about his favorite co-worker, Mauro. For the first few months that he worked at this job, Tony didn’t really get to know Mauro, who is sincere and nice, but also very quiet. But last week in the course of a rare conversation, Tony found out something truly awesome about his taciturn office mate. He’s part of an Italian NGO called Emergency. He travels to countries like Sudan, Algeria, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan, providing desperately needed medical care. Emergency builds hospitals, trains local medical staff, and provides free medical and surgical care to victims of war, landmines, and poverty. The organization is non-partisan, often providing treatment to victims on both sides of a conflict. But it is passionately anti-war. In the words of the organization, “Emergency promotes a culture of solidarity, peace and respect for human rights.”
I spent some time on Emergency’s Website, and was impressed and moved by both their scope of activities and their vision. They routinely enter dangerous war zones to bring hope and healing to people in desperate situations. Their efforts focus on the construction and renovation of hospitals and clinics in war-torn areas, and training for local staff, creating long-reaching effects in the areas they serve. I was reminded of Three Cups of Tea, which I read earlier this year. The book is Greg Mortenson’s often amusing, sometimes terrifying, but always heartwarming firsthand account of his quest to build schools for children in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan.
I am humbled and inspired by people like these, who travel so far outside their comfort zone to make a difference to strangers. How would things be different if there were as many Greg Mortensons in Afghanistan as foreign troops? Or if Emergency’s operations were as well funded as the U.S. military’s? And what can I do to be part of that difference?
I have a voice. And I can speak out for solidarity, peace and respect for human rights. And against hate, intolerance, and war. I can write for Cross Cultures magazine. And I can share this poem with you, which I memorized when I was fifteen years old:
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death.
I hear him leading his horse out of the stall;
I hear the clatter on the barn-floor.
He is in haste; he has business in Cuba,
business in the Balkans, many calls to make this morning.
But I will not hold the bridle
while he clinches the girth.
And he may mount by himself:
I will not give him a leg up.
Though he flick my shoulders with his whip,
I will not tell him which way the fox ran.
With his hoof on my breast, I will not tell him where
the black boy hides in the swamp.
I shall die, but that is all that I shall do for Death;
I am not on his pay-roll.
I will not tell him the whereabouts of my friends
nor of my enemies either.
Though he promise me much,
I will not map him the route to any man’s door.
Am I a spy in the land of the living,
that I should deliver men to Death?
Brother, the password and the plans of our city
are safe with me; never through me shall you be overcome.
– Edna St. Vincent Millay
And the title of this post? It comes from a website made by Afghan young people who are doing their all for peace in their country. There is something tender and heartbreaking about their story, but hopeful too. If they can somehow find a way to change the world for the better, then surely we can do something too.