I imagined that my first email to you from Mexico would be to celebrate my arrival, announce my love affair for the food, and reassure everyone that I indeed made it out of Australia.
And then the news of Russia declaring war on Ukraine made all of that seem absolutely banal.
I have a contractor in Ukraine and she has been a solid part of my business this last year. Without knowing her in real life, I've gotten to know her through the work.
When I reached out to her, she told me that she awoke to the sound of explosions. This is something that I will never, ever have to face (or haven't so far), simply because I come from a country that drops bombs, not receives them.
I asked her how I can help and if she is safe.
All she wants is for the world to know the truth. What the truth is to her, I'm unsure. What it is to me is that she is just like me. A young professional woman working as a freelancer and enjoying life.
It reminds me of my time in Vietnam, when I learned about the truth of the Vietnam War. After visiting the war museum, I locked myself in the public restroom and cried for 30 minutes. My chest ached as I tried to muffle my sobs.
All I could think about was my brother, Scoey.
The museum showed pictures of young men mutilated by the war, the nepalm rendering otherwise healthy bodies useless.
My brother. Healthy, happy. Destroyed by war.
Of course, my brother is not destroyed by war. But isn't that just the luck of the draw? He is safely living in a quiet state in the US only because he was randomly born into a country that bombs others instead of getting bombed. I feel so relieved by that, to know that he is safe and happy.
And now, I think of Liza as if she were me. It could happen to anyone but it happened to her. Her country and her friends and her family.
I don't know what has happened in the world, but especially my own country, where people might think this is simply a political ploy. The fact that standing for humanity is a controversial topic in some circles blows my mind.
But we have to stand for humanity. And from what I can see online, much of the world stands for the innocent civilians of Ukraine. I saw a video of a woman at an anti-war protest in Russia, just before she was dragged away by the police.
"I'm ashamed of my country," she said. "I used to love my country but now I am ashamed."
It gives me hope to remember that not all of humanity has lost sight of what's really important.
Not stupid political identities or grubby world leaders. Just real life, person-to-person compassion. That's all that matters.
What hurts the most in all of this is that I can hear echoes of hateful commentary from back home. I've lived in a house with hate-filled hearts and I know what the underbelly of America sounds like.
This is what fuels catastrophic events like this, where lives are lost because some people are too insecure in their own existence to recognize that every life matters. Every human deserves compassion, grace, and acceptance.
And if we can't offer that in our own homes, then how can we offer it to others across the globe?
So for now, I donate. I take my undeserved privilege and I give it away as best I can. I don't know what else to do, so I invite you to join me.
Here are some resources I've come across:
*uacrisis.org - here you'll find a list of recommendations from within Ukraine, plus organizations that you can donate to
*international rescue committee - I used to volunteer with the IRC by helping refugees from war-stricken countries (where the US caused war and displaced millions of people) settle in the US. The people of Ukraine will need places to go and the IRC already has an established network and resources to help them seek shelter. If you have time for it, I recommend you volunteer as well. The IRC receives partial funding from the US government and the funding is based on the number of hours worked by volunteers (among other things). Basically, the government pays the IRC for the volunteer wages so that they can use that cash toward settling refugees.
*timeout magazine - here you'll find a list of organizations that you can donate to. I've chosen to donate to those that support the citizens directly because that is where my heart is at. There are others that support the citizen troops and Ukraine military, which is essential in defending Russian troops. The citizens of Ukraine are arming themselves to fight the invaders, to truly fight for their freedoms. This is a fight I will never have to endure because I am already free.
Imagine voluntarily leaving your family to defend your nation from death and destruction. It hits different than the fight to not be told what to do.
It makes all of the whiney complaints of the West seem like a disgusting overreach of freedom. And this is why I think it hurts so damn much. We've lost perspective of what's going on around us and innocent people are dying as a result.
Anyway, if you feel called to help, then please forward this email to others. We are in this together. This is what the human race is all about: helping each other survive.
It's the evolutionary process that got us to this point and I'd like not to abandon it now.