The only way of awakening to a sense of purpose is through connecting with the struggles and successes of other people. We can only be human through each other.
I watched this documentary called Beyond Belief. It’s about two women from Boston, Patti Quigley and Susan Retik, who after losing their husbands in 9/11, decided to make an effort to empower Afghan widows. The terrorists involved in 9/11 trained on Afghan soil, and though they were not Afghan themselves, the U.S and other Western allies starting bombing them. Patti and Susan chose to actively engage their compassion by not buying into the rampant hate and fear being spread through the media, and instead saw that this war effort would only cause more women the kind of pain and grief they were experiencing.
I am left speechless after witnessing this documentary, for many reasons.
Despite having some close American friends, having family in the states, and being well aware that not all Americans are the staunchly unapologetic, blind patriots I recognize on Fox News, I still don’t expect much from Americans in terms of cultural openness, global foresight, or the ability to see past the media. Clearly, my own ability for those things is also limited, since something which struck me most about these women was that they were American. I rarely think Americans capable of truly being able to see beyond their own borders, in a non-imperialist , fully compassionate, intelligent, and thoughtful way. Lo and behold, I was dead wrong. These are incredible, inspiring women, and I am ashamed that I have allowed so much anti-American sentiment invade my psyche in a way that discredits such wholesome human beings as these women, and other Americans, are.
Another shock in this documentary was gaining some insight into the realities of Afghan women, and the other women all over the world who undoubtedly live in such similar situations.
Sahera Naznia, a widow living in Kabul, probably in her late thirties, says she has not known a time when her country was in peace. Zainab Wahidi says she has fifty members of her family who have been killed by the war in Afghanistan- and this is not unique.
Another woman they spoke to lost three children to starvation.
The moment that struck me hardest was when Patti and Susan were speaking with some of these women whom their efforts were helping, and Susan asked if they had any questions about America. The ladies asked about 9/11 and what it was like. The Afghan women shared their condolences over their losses. They were very sympathetic. They then said they wanted to see pictures from where Patti and Susan lived and worked, picture of their homes and lives in America. I was immediately horrified at this, because the contrast between affluent Boston neighbourhoods and these women’s realities in Kabul were too drastic, too injust and insulting. Susan also immediately felt this, and tearfully answered that “it makes me embarrassed to think of how much we have, and to show you a picture of my home. It makes me feel like it’s not fair.” It didn’t matter to the Afghani women, as they were touched by her show of emotion for them and their struggle, and what had ultimately become a mutual struggle.
Patti later remarks that she’s tired of talking about 9/11 and what she went through, instead wanting to “talk about [these] women, and what they need..that also has become clear to me…that these women need a lot of help, and it doesn’t really matter what has happened to me.”
Even in the gravest of circumstances, there comes a time when we must put our pain aside and look deeply into the situations of others, into the hearts of others, and learn to recognize all suffering as universal, and most importantly, make a genuine, focused effort to heal that suffering.
There is no way to sum up what I am feeling right now, but I am struck by how we all have the ability to truly impact this world, and that we only have one chance to do it.