”There is a reason the word belonging has a synonym for want at its center; it is the human condition.” Jodi Picoult Vanishing Acts
There are few thoughts about belonging in my head today and, frankly, writing about belonging after 298 innocent adults and children have been murdered seems callous and trivial. As more information comes to light about the way the Malaysian Airlines passenger jet was shot down, I feel more sick to my stomach.
My heart goes out to the victims and the family and friends and classmates and colleagues of the victims.
All I need to do is read the news to find out how low humanity can sink: fighting in heavily-populated parts of Gaza has killed at least 400 people and forced thousands to flee their homes; rival militias have killed civilians as they battle over Libya’s main international airport; and Jihadists have killed or executed 270 Syrian regime fighters, civil security guards and employees since seizing the Shaar gas field in Homs province.It’s emotionally overwhelming to imagine the pain that some people experience, particularly as I sit in a safe democratic country where our biggest concern seems to be economics or what’s for dinner.
When I’m bombarded with terrifying news like MH17 I ask myself: is humanity really this appalling? Where has the human gone in humanity?
I’m still overwhelmed by the news of MH17. Tears well up when I see pictures of the innocent victims. As a mother I live in the exposed and vulnerable love that something may happen to my children, my family. I try my best to make sure it doesn’t but I cannot control everything. As UK philosopher Alain de Botton would say, these terrifying incidents are reminders of our own transience, our own death.Canadian humanist Jean Vanier might say humanity and being human is about making choices. So I have a choice about how I react to this. When I was in university I went through my own terrifying incident. I had a choice. I could learn from it and become a better person, or I could let it devour me and make me bitter. Since then, I’ve tried to follow the first path — to learn and become a better person.
That seemingly noble path is not the easiest to follow. My less noble self is hoping the people who shot the jet down and those who supplied the missile will suffer the same death, or worse. My more noble self wants justice for the victims. My realistic side says that will never happen.
Then, the bruised optimist in me asks: what if I acknowledge the overwhelming sense of hopelessness and loss that comes with the tragic murders of the people on MH17 and try to be even more human?
What if I reach out to more people every day? What if I try to touch, especially those I don’t know, with a small act of kindness, generosity, humanity?
What if we all did that?