Emotion drowns me. A wild range of conflicting feelings consume me; anger, injustice, frustration, passion and love, course through me simultaneously. Filled to the brim with what I can only describe as an intense claustrophobia, its at that moment that I know I will implode.
As I struggle to regain some control over myself, to make sense of all of these feelings, they begin to appear in my mind as fuzzy clouds. Confusion moves like a fog that engrosses my awareness completely. The burning sensation in my throat increases as I realize more and more that I lack so much power in this situation. My cousin and I had been walking up the main street of Sapa, Vietnam at 11:30PM after a night filled with laughter, drinks and connection. We’d just been to watch the football and were feeling extremely happy and grateful for everything in our lives.
A young girl no older than five sits on the curb surrounded by her wares which she sells from a small aztec patterned blanket. She strives to comfort the heartbreaking screams of her little brother, his voice becoming hoarse from the relentless sobbing, will it ever end?
To me, it is apparent that these are the cries of a child who needs his mother, the only solution it seems we cannot provide. She is nowhere to be seen. Minutes pass, his cries for help continue. We fight to comfort him with water, food and cuddles, nothing seems to alleviate his piercing wails, my hearts breaks with every minute that I still cannot provide the help that is needed. I realize something in that moment. A very powerful part of who I am is revealed to me. A feeling that is almost compulsory. A purpose I need to fulfill.
As the minutes turn to hours our desperation to find a solution to what seems like an unsolvable problem increases. The child needs love, the love of his mother. To simply be held in her embrace, to feel the endless warmth and unconditional love that is so vital to every child’s wellbeing.
It stretches far beyond that, we all need human contact and connection, sometimes more than we need food, water and shelter, all of which is amplified at this young vulnerable age. When we are children we are essentially a blank slate; a malleable impressionable sponge which soaks up all the experiences we are subjected to. Every little moment of our lives is impacting us in some way, whether on a conscious or unconscious level, conditioning us in some sense, even if don’t want to recognize that. As we grow and evolve as beings, we have the choice of perspective, the choice to use all these experiences as opportunities to gain wisdom regardless of whether they appear to be “positive” or “negative”. Yet at this young age we are incapable of utilizing this silver lining; the transitory quality of an experience. The way that even the most horrific experiences offer us something beautiful; they become a part of who we are today, and that person, who ever it is that you are right in this moment, is exactly who you need to be.
I place myself in the shoes of the child, the child who does not have this knowledge, the child in front of me who is feeling so much pain and utter desperation. With this knowledge flooding my mind, I understood just how important it was that we did everything we could to rectify this situation as quickly as possible in order to help this child in every way we could and knew how.
Although the majority of the soulless population had ignored the dire situation in front of their eyes and continued on their journeys of ignorance, a small group of local women and older children had gathered to see if they could be of any help. We managed to communicate with one of the little girls who spoke a few words of english, she informed us that the mother was just up the road. I was shocked beyond words. Up the road? She had been there the whole time? Again my whole vessel begun to boil with rage and confusion. I ran up the road to find her, gripping the baby tightly to my shoulder. Sat by the road was a woman, a young woman no older than myself, she didn’t seem phased as I past the screaming bundle down to her. Why did she not care? I didn’t get it. However the baby was happy for now that’s what was important. Our work here was done for now. I tried to regain control of my emotions to stop myself from drowning in a sea of disempowerment, my mind fast forwarding to a thousand solutions yet non were permanent or tangible. I get that I am doing my part by simply doing as much as I can in any given situation, yes I am creating positive change but in reality do I really have the power to impact injustice properly? I solely feel a calling to help and aid others and by continuing to justify reasons as to why I can’t now or as to how I can’t is cowardice. I am a powerful passionate embodiment of unconditional itself and I will not allow injustice to crush my spirit, only to further motivate me to effect our planet and its people positively. Shocked and emotionally drained we made our way back to the hostel. Later I was to find out the horrifying truth of the situation we had been involved in. By trying to help the child we had attracted attention, attention that the mother believed could have bought the family money. We had prolonged the suffering of the child. All we had wanted to do was help but our lack of awareness of the situation had caused us to worsen what we had tried to rectify. How could we have known? Although utterly horrified I was determined to learn what I could from the intense experience I had just undergone.
It can be so hard to fight your instincts when faced with a situation that affects you to such emotional depth, yet it is essential to distinguish between what is beneficial to your own well being and peace of mind and what is done from a place of what you believe to be moral duty. In my eyes, it was now important to be aware, that when overridden by emotion we can make decisions that don’t necessarily come from a place of clarity or of what is actually best for the individual in need. Many of us jump to the aid of humanity to simply satisfy the emotional ache that overcomes us when we witness those in hardship, therefore helping from a place of self gain rather than complete selflessness, whether aware of the reality of our intention or not. There is nothing wrong with the fact that for a lot of us helping others makes us feel like we are doing our part for humanity, the environment etc. Yet I also believe it is extremely important that we distinguish within ourselves where our motivation to act comes from; are we acting from a place of complete selflessness or is our quest to gain emotional satisfaction happening to have positive consequences for those involved? It is an incredible thing that by helping others we help ourselves, but it is another level of inexplicable beauty when others give without reciprocation, without gaining anything personally from the act, simply knowing somewhere deep down in the depths of their soul that the natural laws of the universe are such that when one gives without any thought of personal gain the same gestures will be reciprocated back to them in some shape or form. I believe this is true morality; the act of giving without any expectation of any reward or reciprocation, to give and to act morally simply because you ‘know’ it is the right thing to do whether it makes you feel or warm and fuzzy at the time or not. On the other hand I guess what I am saying can become rather contradictory. One would ask does the exact same act become “more” moral if the person who acts does not gain anything from it? In this case I believe it does. Although inherently the same act has taken place it is the intention behind the act that truly distinguishes between the two.True morality is both correct in intention and action; an alignment of the two is what creates ultimate positive change. Through my experience I had come to understand this truth fully. I had learned hard, but i had learnt well. I had acted selfishly without even realizing it. I had unintentionally harmed another because i was consumed by an emotional ache which i had needed to satisfy. I was ultimately acting from a place of ignorance. The silver lining had been revealed, the wisdom gained through experience. The most essential piece in the puzzle to positive change in the world; awareness.