I know how it feels when it hits you.
You open up your Facebook feed, your Twitter homepage or your CNN app. Something else went wrong today. Terribly wrong. There’s another massacre, another senseless killing, another injustice, another seemingly-unquenchable evil entity rising in governments all around the world. For some of you, it’s not just in your passport country – it’s likely on your back doorstep. It’s all over the news and you just want it to stop.
The tears well up. I say, let them flow, friend. Especially when you choose to press play on that live video that went streaming out into the World Wide Web, giving us the uncut, unfiltered version of tragedy. We keep watching because we simply can’t believe it is happening in real life.
When we’ve been hit with so much coming from our screens and our newspapers, what are we to do when we start to feel numb to it all? Today I am daring to answer that. For myself. For you. For the rest of our expat brother/sisterhood.
I, probably more than most of you, tend to pass by that next tragic news story so I can figuratively put fingers-into-ears and watch Jimmy Fallon instead. Jimmy Fallon doesn’t make me weep. He is a joy bringer. Joy-bringers are wanted and needed and necessary on most days. But, there are the days we are called to weep, to give, to move and to walk beside the hurting nations of this world.
What is it about you and me that gives us a running start towards being a part of healing? WE have willfully, strategically, mindfully, financially and emotionally moved our lives out of our passport country and into the birthplace of people who are likely much different than we are. Not only are we different by birth, but by worldview. In fact, our worldview broadens simply because we are now living “over there” instead of in our nationalistic bubbles of Familiar Land. The very nature of moving and living overseas is to impact the world in a way that we can’t do from our birth country.
Merriam-Webster defines “empathy” as: “the imaginative projection of a subjective state into an object so that the object appears to be infused with it.” Have you ever felt like the place around you is being infused into who you are as a person? Of course! You have been unwittingly set up to show empathy because you are literally being changed into a different person than you were before you moved abroad. You are experiencing life through another people’s culture-lense.
The news lately seems so out of control we often don’t know where to begin. I say we start with compassion in action. We have to move beyond social media movements, like hashtags and rainbow-colored profile pictures, and into something that looks a little more like hugs given to those hurting, dollars spent for those in need, and knobby knees bent interceding for a grief-stricken world.
We need to weep with the nations.
Let it start with us. The expats. We’ve already removed ourselves from all that is known and comfortable and familiar. We’ve already dived into a world that is peculiar and broken and causes us to press in when we feel that discomfort, rather than push away.
How can we start turning our compassion into action?
- Be informed. Read the news frequently and especially pay attention to things that happen on a local level. Most countries seem to have a news outlet online for expats that can help explain things in English. Take a step further and learn some new vocabulary by reading the local news in your host country’s language.
- Be a learner and leave your quick judgements for another day. I have raised so many eyebrows when I bring up social and political happenings in my host country or abroad and it really bridges deeper relationships with my neighbors when I try to understand the latest news and how it affects local friends.
- Keep the social media arguments to a minimum (please, for all our sakes!) and instead, start asking how you can help. When the Orlando tragedy happened, I wanted to show emotional support and thought my being overseas would hinder me from it. Little did I know, a candlelight vigil was held in my very own city here in Thailand to remember the victims. Most times when tragedies occur, the people affected simply want to know that someone cares and remembers them in their struggle.
Where have you been a good Samaritan lately? Are you an expat, similar to the Samaritan man, who has been suddenly thrust into the path of someone hurting and needing support? I would love to hear your story in the comments.