There are things in this world which I admit are fully beyond my imagination. I was reminded of them yesterday when talking to my friend Sarah about her trip to Uganda and Rwanda this summer.
In The Book of Mormon, the chief villain is a local warlord who terrorizes villagers. I cannot imagine what that must be like, other than I am positive it would be much worse than Matt Stone and Trey Parker portrayed. There are so many little details about life in dangerous situations and places that I would never even think of. Sarah told me how, in the cities in Rwanda that she visited, the streets did not have street signs. She asked someone about this, and was told that that was to make it harder for soldiers during the genocide to find the person they had set out to kill.
I would never have imagined that. There are probably many more details about living in a war zone — or, in the case of Rwanda, genocide — that I don’t know and fall outside my comprehension.
I have been reminded that, while life here is not perfect (especially as a woman), there are ways in which it could be much worse. The jokes about things being “first world problems” ring true: so much of what I face on a daily basis or which troubles me about life in America pales in comparison to living in terror.
Yet even as I type this, I face the fact that there are those who live in their own type of terror in this country. Maybe they do not face murdering warlords, but they do face homelessness and hunger, and lack of medical care. The social safety net is frayed and badly needs mending. Although I am a relatively empathetic and understanding person, I am completely sure that there are details about homelessness that I cannot imagine. I know it is increasingly easy to become homeless in this country but what it would be like to experience on a first hand basis, especially for the most desperate homeless people living on the streets staggers me.
As we head into the beginning of the season of “goodwill to all men,” I need to think hard about ways in which I contribute to change to make people’s lives better. Charitable contributions* and political action come to mind first, but I’m sure there are other ways if I could think of them.
After all, it is the season of hope, as well.
*Our family contributes through the Combined Federal Campaign (a program for federal workers which deducts charitable contributions from paychecks) to a number of different charities. Right now, those include Second Harvest Food Bank, Habitat for Humanity, and Heifer International. Next year, I want to add Kiva and Doctors Without Borders.