7 Billion Others, Art, compassion, creative nonfiction, culture, families, Humanity, inspiration, medical, mental health, mental illness, mentally ill, poverty, psychiatry, schizophrenia, travel, war, world
There are times when I need to look out the window, see the man working in my neighbor’s garden, and wonder about his life. What is it like to work hard out in the hot sun all day? Does he make enough to feed his family, if he has a family? Does he have to work two jobs? Who is that man? What is important to him? What are his struggles? What gets him out of bed? What does he dream about? Is he happy, or does he want more? Once I have thought enough about him, I need to think about the other people I encounter. Only in this way do I keep from feeling sorry for myself, see the struggles of those around me, and get out of my mind long enough to care about the people who surround me. No matter how little we appear to have in common, no matter how good someone else has it, we are all aware of our limited days. We are all going to die, and that knowledge alone should bind us together to celebrate our every breath, our every heartbeat, our every step. The fact that we will all die, should break our hearts open with compassion. It’s hard to know there is a finish line and all of us will cross it.
Yesterday, my husband and I went to the photography museum. There was an exhibit called 7 Billion Others. We listened to women talk about how they had no idea about nutrition and vaccines until Doctors Without Borders came to their villages. We listened to a woman from Rwanda talk about how her baby was thrown in the air and cut in half by a man wielding a machete. The same men that participated in the murder of her child (in front of her eyes) cut off her arm, and pierced her in her upper chest (a wound that went all the way through her body). They also jumped on her and stripped her naked. We listened to a miner (without any teeth) talk about how dangerous his job is, but that he does it every day to feed his eight children. We listened to stories about famine, wars, diseases like polio and malaria. We listened to the struggles of many people we share this planet with.
We also learned about people around the world and their fears (one man’s greatest fear was that God didn’t exist, another man’s great fear was that God does exist). We listened to hopes, dreams and what people think the meaning of life is. The people interviewed talked about love, and laughter, they talked about family.
It brought me out of myself.
I have clean running water. I am never truly thirsty or hungry. I have a refrigerator and air conditioning. I have a comfortable bed and access to laundry facilities. I rarely drive, but I do have a car, and I have the ability and means to take public transportation. I have Internet access. I have a cell phone. I have clean clothes. I have at least a dozen pairs of shoes. I have a roof over my head. I have access to medication and doctors. This is a short list of all that I have.
I also have paranoid schizophrenia. I battle my symptoms every day. I deal with social isolation , a lack of motivation, social anxiety, panic attacks, paranoid thoughts, and long periods of inactivity. Even with all that, I live a privileged and easy life compared to many people on the planet. Even when you throw in psychosis, and the terrors and suicide attempts it doesn’t come close to what some people have experienced.
Today, I refuse to give space to me and my struggles. I will give space to you. I will think about you, wherever you are. I will think about how much you’ve seen, how hard you work, how you try to keep your child fed, healthy and alive. I will give you a place to be seen and heard in my heart and head.
May all of us find a way to help each other, to lighten the load, to lessen the fears, to increase the laughter, to grow our hearts, and to share the gift of the life we have been born into so that when it comes time for us to pass away, we can know that maybe there were times when we were lonely, but we were never truly alone. It’s our journey, let’s find every possible way to live it together.