Be the Change You Want to See in the World

Sunday, April 07, 2013


And this, ladies and gentlemen, is why we need more women as writers and reporters. She reminds me of a 13 year old girl who once said to herself, "I want to be a journalist because I want to help people tell their stories."


*dusts off virtual cobwebs* 

It feels like forever since I last wrote in here. I like to keep things positive on this blog but I also believe in keeping it real. Apart from being busy with other things, my head has been buried deep in research for my Masters thesis and my heart has been oscillating as I struggle to reason with myself about the choices I've made. As I research the situation in Palestine, or Gaza more specifically, I've become very sensitive towards news of wars, conflicts, and hardships around the world. 

"Why?"

This three-lettered question has caused my head and heart much agony the last two weeks. 

Why is this happening in the world? Why am I doing this instead of that? Why do I think I can make a difference?  Why do other people suffer while I live comfortably in the safety of my home and surrounded by a family that loves and protects me?

I remember feeling this way in 2011 when I watched roughly 20 hours of film about war by John Pilger for a class project. I thought about my parents, my siblings, my life and how different our lives would be if we were born into other families or country or era. In the past I swept those thoughts underneath the proverbial rug but knowing how messed up this world is makes me feel a sense of brokenness I can't explain and can no longer ignore. What hurts more is the feeling of helplessness.

How do we go on living our lives when other people are in pain?

I've been searching for answers. I've asked people but the more I asked the more I felt like no one understood. I thought I'd never find the answers to my questions (and be fully convinced of them) until my friends told me to listen to a TEDx presentation by a journalist named Janine di Giovanni.

"When people ask me how I continue to cover war and why I continue to do it, this is why," di Giovanni explained, "... when I go back to Syria next week what I see is incredibly heroic people; some of them fighting for democracy, for things we take for granted every single day."

By the end of her speech I was in tears because for the first time in a very long time I could identify with someone else. That presentation by di Giovanni led me to Giles DuleyHis TEDx talk blew me away. I had finally found the answers. His passion, his quest — I understood them completely because that 13 year old girl who wanted to help people tell their stories was me.

"... to shine a light in the darkest corners of the world." 

Perhaps you don't wish to make a difference by telling stories. However you choose to do it remember this: We may not be able to change the world in ways we wish we could but we can certainly make an impact in the world (environment, communities) we live in, even if in relatively small ways. Don't wait to feel empowered — be empowered and then empower others!

The late Gandhi famously said, "Be the change you want to see in the world" and there are many ways to interpret his saying. This is what I have to add from my personal experience:  attend to your pain or sense of brokenness first. In a talk I attended recently Imam Afroz Ali said, "Selflessness is providing to everybody while looking after yourself."

Understand what pain is and learn how to heal it the right way. If you have a spiritual void fill it with spirituality not materialism. If you have questions seek answers from the appropriate sources (I learned to ask God first and then only the answers came to me). Deal with your pain; don't run away from it. Sometimes it's as simple as learning how to have the right intentions. Don't let other people tell you what your purpose is but allow them to help you discover it.

And most importantly, don't give up.


2 comments:

Sarina said...

:) Good to know that there are still people out there eager to make a difference. I wish you all the best in your studies Sha! I think if you'd make a really good lecturer if you ever decided to become an academic later on in life.

Shahirah Elaiza said...

@Sarina, people such as yourself :) Thank you! I do want to become an academician at some point in my life, inshaAllah. God knows best.