This week has been a week of destruction for both my worlds.
Romania, the country I was born in, the country that has been my home for 25 years just passed a law that decriminalized corruption if the damages are under about $45,000. You heard that right! So if you’re corrupt, but your damages don’t reach that amount, you’re off the hook. As a side note that’s about how much money a teacher makes in 5 years in Romania. Needless to say, the news created a lot of revolts from the general population, the hard working people who wouldn’t even think about being corrupt, who’ve worked all their lives believing in something better. Most of these people have already lived through communism and they believed in democracy, in the promise of a better world. Yet once again, just like with communism for so many decades before, they find themselves having to walk out on the streets, to protest for their rights, to protest for the laws to punish the corrupt and protect the innocent.
And then there was USA, my adoptive country for the past 9 years, a country i dreamed of living in and being a citizen of, a place where I believed in the promise of the American dream. We have a new president, a president who doesn’t believe in basic human rights for all legal residents of this country, who is targeting innocent people (some of whom are my friends), who believes race and color as well as religion or sexual orientation determine who you are as a person and your value in this world. This week I saw my coworkers and my friends crying as they told the story about coming to US, the struggles and the torments they had to go through. I went through them myself too, but definitely not as much as them. While our roads towards getting student visas, work visas or permanent residency cards should have been similar, they had a harder time just because of the place they were born on or because of their religion or the fact that their skin is slightly darker than mine.
While all of this has made me somewhat hopeless about a better world, all the messages of encouragement, all the words of love and support, all the communities coming together have also given me tremendous hope that there is only so much hatred that can go on before kindness and love takes over yet again. It made me hopeful about the things we can all do whether we are directly affected of an unfair situation or not.
1. Give love and support unconditionally. Maybe you’re not touched by any of this, maybe you have no connection with either country, maybe you live in a place in this world where discrimination is non-existent and everyone lives in harmony. Reach out to the people who are touched by terrible situation. Offer support. Offer to listen. Offer to comfort.
2. Ask what can be done. Some of the people in these dire situations are looking for lawyers, translators, people who can help them find answers in areas they are not familiar with. If you can be that support, don’t hold back. The world needs you.
3. Be kind. Sometimes there’s nothing concrete that you can personally do. Sometimes the best thing you can do is be kind, understanding and compassionate.
4. Remember we’re all in this together. This is our world, don’t believe you’re above everyone else or that it doesn’t affect you. On some level, whether you feel it or not, it does.
5. Take action. The world is not looking for someone to be sorry for them. These people who are mostly affected by these situations are fighters. They’ve made it so far, they’ll make it again. They don’t need someone to pity them, they need someone to encourage them, to root for them, to stand with them.
6. Be whatever is wanted and needed. During this time, people react differently. Some people need to tell their story, others prefer to remain quiet, be whatever is needed for each of them. Be the sounding board for the person who needs to talk and the quiet supporter for the one who prefers to remain silent.
7. Don’t pretend to understand. Whatever you do, don’t pretend to understand what they’re going through unless you’ve actually been through it yourself. It’s offensive and rude to diminish their pain by inserting yourself in it. Support their pain, but respect the fact that you couldn’t possibly understand what they are going through.
And in the hope of a kinder and more loving tomorrow, give someone a hug today and ask them how they’re doing.