Some friends and I were talking this weekend about all of the fear and sadness in the world, and how many people seem to be coming apart at the seams. We focused on the sadness and desperation for awhile, and then decided to ask what we could do to contribute to the situation. I decided that my contribution would be a story about two of the most incredible and courageous women I have ever met. These women are amazing advocates for the health and well-being of children, and I know few people who have touched as many lives as they have.
The first woman I met in my early 20's, after moving to North Carolina for my first real job. I volunteered for a program called Guardian ad Litem, which is a court appointed volunteer who advocates for abused and neglected children in court. She was in charge of the program and involved in all of the cases, spending many sleepless nights thinking about the horrors inflicted on these children by their own family members. Twenty years later, I am still in contact with one of the families I advocated for. I lost a lot of sleep thinking about that one family, and I can't imagine what it would have been like knowing the details of all of the families she worked with.
I did not know a single person when I moved to North Carolina, and she opened her door and her heart to me (and everyone else) and treated me like family. I spent many nights at her house and have rarely met someone so kind and generous. She knew what it was like to be far from home and away from the family she loved. She was forced to leave her home and several family members during the revolution.
She was from Iran. And she is Muslim.
The second woman I met during my year long training with Mindful Schools. She had been working as a child psychologist in Toronto, helping kids get through tough times, and teaching them tools to help them deal with life. Tools I wish I had had when I was a child.
Toronto was not home for her, and she desperately missed her family. Anyone that has lived in another city, state, or country - away from those they love - can surely relate. She decided to move back to her native country, and is currently teaching mindfulness to school children there.
Her home is Pakistan. And she is Muslim.
It is easy to stereotype those we don't know. It is easy to react and feel the need to protect our loved ones when we are afraid, or when things seem to be spinning out of control.
What if the only thing we have to fear is fear itself? When we function from an "us vs them" mentality, we begin to see people as different from us, instead of seeing them as loving family members or valuable citizens in our society. These women have already contributed more to society than most people I have ever met, and they continue to help more children each and every day. I am honored to know them and call them my friends.