Like many, I have gone through the dark night of the soul trying to make sense of horrors that media brings to our doorsteps and into our homes, carrying messages of fear and hate. Instead of coming out of devastating experiences with bitter, angry hearts seeking revenge, we can choose to nurture reconciliation and restitution.
The reality of human tragedy hit home hard when I discovered that one of my former students, Alina Tarbhai, was on a plane with her mom on a sacred pilgrimage. They were passengers on Ukrainian International Airlines flight PS752, brought down by a military missile only minutes after takeoff from Tehran’s main airport on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.
Around the world, we suffer terrible loss of life in many forms, on many levels of tragedy, both manmade and natural. Fires consume areas in Australia now larger than England. There are all kinds of strife caused by earthquakes, tectonic shifts, volcanoes, tidal waves, droughts, floods, famine, disease, war and all kinds of pollution expanding above, below and within the earth.
Instead of being devastated and shutting down in the face of catastrophe, regardless of source or intent behind it, what if we turned our own realities around to give life more meaning? What if we became better custodians for the world, and more compassionate caretakers for each other?
We need to stay in a very light heart space, no matter what winds blow our way. Mother Theresa shared many words of wisdom with the world:
There are no great things, only small things with great love.
Peace begins with a smile.
If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.
Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier.
There are no great things, only small things with great love. Happy are those.
Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
If you judge people, you have no time to love them.
Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.
Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.
I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts, then there is no hurt, but only more love.
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
We can each do our best, whatever that is, wherever we are, to inspire and uplift one another rather than be bystanders. We can do this in memory of those we love, in memory of loving people like Alina Tarbhai who perished on flight PS752.
I used to encourage student leaders like Alina in elementary and high schools to get involved in community outreach. Many like Alina continued into their adulthood carrying hope for humanity. That unpaid part of my vocation was the best and most meaningful of part of my life.
Even after retirement, it is hard for educators to put encouragement to rest. It is healthiest and best to rekindle our own spirits to be revitalized. We can listen and talk to help young eagles spread their wings and fly again.
Maybe the hurt from the loss on flight PS752 can help foster more love in the world. I know Alina would like that.