In 2005, I was sitting with my husband at dinner right after I’d just found out that our college had received the Fulbright GPA to Russia. Bryon asked me why I wanted to go to Russia. I replied something to the effect that sometimes you traveled to enjoy yourself and see the world, and sometimes you traveled because you needed to see the world to understand it. Difficult travel can mean that sometimes you subject yourself to things that we in the US are very insulated from and very inured against.
I’ve seen poverty in Viet Nam and the remains of a camp of intellectual dissent in Russia. I’ve seen a soldier with no hands and feet in his army fatigues begging on a Russian street. I’ve visited with a man who was under house arrest for suggesting that Russians and Chenyans shouldn’t fight.
I have never been in a refugee camp, although I know many people who have. I work with them every day. My knowledge is second-hand. As a safe American, all I do is cluck and look sympathetic. The problems of the world could overwhelm us, and we are very lucky.
But, occasionally, someone with some notoriety can shed light on an issue in a way an ordinary person like me can’t. I can write to you and show you pictures and talk to you, but my reach is more limited than, say, Neil Gaiman’s, who was in Jordan last week at a refugee camp. Yeah, I bet the culture shock is reverberating through his frame about now.
Today’s important question: What can you do to make the world a better place for the brothers and sisters around the globe who are in these kinds of places? Because there are things that you can do. Yes, you.