Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Suffer the little children

I've gone back into my Summer files for this shot. It was taken last August at one of South Pasadena's concerts in Garfield Park. This is childhood. Or, at least, this is what childhood should be.

Along with all of you, I have watched the news in horror as the innocent civilians have have been killed in Gaza. What I find most unbearable are the reports of how many children have perished in a conflict that shows no sign of letting up -- those beautiful lives forever snuffed out, another generation shattered by violence. I am stunned with grief in what has become an all too familiar feeling: helplessness and resignation to the inevitability of more bloodshed, more suffering, and more sorrow caused by politics, borders, ethnic mistrust, religious zealotry and the killing machines of war. As a humanist, I sigh. As a mother, I weep.

We mothers of all political stripes want a better future for our kids. As we push those screaming newborns out of our own bodies and into the uncertain world, each one of us hopes for a brighter, more peaceful planet. Whether we pray to one of three interpretations of the god of Abraham, or to the son of that god; whether we meditate to the lessons of the Buddha or simply marvel at the wonders of the known natural world, we mothers have a spectacular connection to life. We share in its creation in a very personal way -- our bodies host it and create food for it, we spend years loving and scolding and rocking and snuggling it to maturity. We mothers are dedicating to nurturing lives. Perhaps that is why, for most of us, reckless killing is intolerable. The term "collateral damage" can never begin to adequately describe to a mother -- any mother -- the death of an innocent child.

With this in mind, I thought I would share a few links to charities whose work helps suffering children in areas of conflict all over the world. I feel fortunate to live in a community as beautiful, safe and happy as South Pasadena. Here are some organizations trying to make the whole planet into a more kid-friendly place. As you look toward your 2009 budget for charitable donations, please consider these groups:

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)
Coordinating response by national Red Cross and Red Crescent societies, the ICRC is an independent, neutral organization offering humanitarian protection, aid and assistance for victims of war and other armed violence. With headquarters in Geneva, the ICRC operates in 80 countries. As stated on the ICRC website, it has a "permanent mandate under international law to take impartial action for prisoners, the wounded and sick, and civilians affected by conflict." Click here for an up to date report of the ICRC's efforts to assist in Gaza as well as Southern Israel.

Seeds of Peace
Founded in 1993 by journalist John Wallach, this organization promotes personal relationships critical to peacemaking and conflict resolution. Beginning with a camp in Maine for teenagers and continuing through programs all over the world, Seeds educates young people to develop empathy, respect, confidence and the skills of negotiation -- allowing them to see the human face of their enemy. Focusing on Israeli, Palestinian and Egyptian teenagers, Seeds also includes young leaders from South Asia, Cyprus and the Balkans.

Room to Read
Founder John Wood left his cushy job at Microsoft after a trip to Nepal opened his eyes to the shocking lack of educational resources for the children there. Room to Read partners with local communities throughout the developing world to build libraries, create local language children's books, build schools and computer labs and provide education to girls in areas where schooling is rarely an option for them.

Voted as a best website of 2008 by Time magazine, Kiva is worthy of the recognition. While it is not specifically aimed at helping children, I can think of no better way to assist poor families than to lend them the funds to start their own businesses. Kiva allows you to lend money to a specific small entrepreneur in the developing world to help lift that person out of poverty. They repay the money ... and you get to lend it to someone else. Sound like a pipe dream? Kiva has become one of the hippest names in microfinance. Check out what Forbes had to say.

I know we can't solve the problems of the world in a generation. But little by little, maybe we can make sure our children's generation has less work to do. Feel free to leave links to your favorite charities in the comments below.


Jilly said...

We all sit and look in horror at what is going on in Gaza, Laurie. Wise words and a super photo. The difference in the lives of those children and those in Gaze - the ones that haven't yet been killed, that is....

Sharon said...

Beautifully said Laurie. I have been troubled by this latest bout of senseless killing but, couldn't find the words to describe my feelings. You have put it very well.

Jutilda said...

I read in awe and admiration the show that Oprah did about people who make a difference and John Wood was so inspiring. Amazing that the millions of books and libraries that we take for granted are so missing in third world countries and even other parts of the world.

Kiva, as you know, is one of my passions. I remember on a visit last year, you and I stayed up into the wee hours on your laptop, finding people on KIVA, and loaning money (women and mothers mostly) who needed it for a business to help support their family.

It's not surprising to know that Laurie and her husband give so much to those who have so little. I'd like to give her a big shout out today because she is motivating not only the giving spirit but the change of thinking that so many need to feel in this world. Thank you for your love and kindness. Thank you for your philanthropy and selfless heart.

Your black and white image of innocence is wonderful.


Dixie Jane said...

I am proud of my daughters, Laurie and Jutilda (Judy). The spirit of loving kindness and giving is part of who they are. I can add nothing to what either of you said today. I applaud you and love you for the beautiful daughters that you are, both inside and out. Your Mom

San Diego Farmgirl said...

God bless you, Laurie. What a wonderful, positive approach to this horrific situation.

Being a credit union person, I'm intrigued by Kiva! Sounds like the "people helping people" philosophy of credit unions - love it!

The World Council of Credit Unions also does some amazing work. I interviewed a group who spent their Christmas break in Kenya, helping villages devastated by AIDS. The new AIDS drugs keep people alive, but they're too sick to work. Add in all the AIDS orphans, and most villages have more mouths to feed than able bodied adults to provide for them.

So these credit union people from Wisconsin, who usually advise on accounting standards and branching networks, rolled up their sleeves and lead the charge to fund, organize and plant new low-moisture and low-care crops that will produce despite drought and little tending.

People do care, and there are plenty of opportunities to help out. Thank you, Laurie, for doing the research!

Dixie: with a mom like you, it's no wonder your kids are so dynamic!

Cafe Observer said...

Just when I said this was turning into a colorful year for you!

Great links, LA!

-K- said...

For what it's worth, I can attest to Kiva being a well-run, professional operation.

Also, the spirit behind these exceedingly humble entrepreneurs amazes me and tells me I really have no problems.

Patrizzi said...

Laurie, thank you.

Trish said...

almost a decade ago I sat down to talk with a friend of mine. Another barrage of explosions were happening in Gaza, in Jerusalem and nearby cities. I tried to make sense of it.

What my friend said was "You are trying to look at it logically and are assuming they are rational men in the mix".

That is a big problem, logic would resolve it quickly. Extremism on all sides makes solving this conflict difficult.

On the back of my vehicle, I have a sticker---one of the Coexist stickers, with the various symbols of faiths spelling it out. I believe it enough to put it on my vehicle, to promote such a place in this world. I know my faith works for me, but not for my neighbor. That's fine, as long as we all agree we can do our own thing without tearing apart someone else's faith---when someone has to be right, then we run into a problem. Hence, the Israel problems.

What I do know is that the basic human in Israel just wants to live a life of peace.

I wish we could take away the bombs, the rhetoric and the fear---just sit down and talk, commune together. So much of the anger is lost when you get to know your "opponent".

GREAT idea to post places to donate Laurie!

Tanya said...

Beautiful, hopeful photo...such a tragedy.

Mister Earl said...

Thank you for posting the list of charities, Laurie. It is too bad they they are necessary.

I do not wish to defend the actions of the government of Israel. Not everything it does is wise or makes sense. But I do wish that you consider a couple things because I read things on the blogs that say that Israel is engaged in ethnic cleansing, Nazi-like tactics, etc. Israel has sought peace from its neighbors for 60 years and continues to do so. And finally, after years of struggle, many of those neighbors have agreed to peace. But many have not. And they raise their children to hate Israel. Israel does not raise its children to hate its neighbors.

Consider that there is a powerful group of terrorists in Mexico who hate the U.S. Consider that on a regular basis this group launches rockets into San Diego, regularly hitting homes and schools and killing children just like yours and mothers and fathers just like you. Consider also that these terrorists do not have separate areas that they occupy, but live amongst their women and children, knowing that if the U.S. were to retaliate for these rocket attacks, their own women and children surely would be killed. If you lived in San Diego and these rockets were falling around you day after day, what would you want your country to do?

Now consider that you live in South Pasadena and there is a group of terrorists here who hate Mexico. Every day they launch rockets from South Pasadena into Mexico. But these terrorists don't set up their missile launchers in open fields where no one lives. No, they set them up in Orange Grove Park, just blocks from where you live. And those terrorists don't live in some isoldated barracks somewhere. No, they live in the house next door to you which is full of ammunition and rocket launchers. If Mexico were to try to stop these rocket attacks against its citizens, you might expect that innocent citizens, including women and children, would be killed. But would it be fair to view this as ethnic cleansing?

Golda Meir said, "Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us." If you loved your children would you launch rockets from your neighborhood against a country that had the means to retaliate?

Cafe Observer said...

Those who want peace with the Jews receive peace from them, and are left alone.
Those who are quick to throw out words like Nazi, Racist, Bigot, etc. well it just cheapens their power. It often doesn't compare in the least with the original source.

MrE: The best to the few Jews left in this world & those who wish to live in peace with them.

Yakpate said...

This photo would become an icon if it were used in a peace poster. Send me the image and I will design the poster for you, and all of us who love your blog can buy it. (ALL sales donated to your charitable links.)

The joy of life that children feel is the antithesis of war. Visualize a Jew and a Palestinian dancing together in the same pose, laughing and holding a balloon, and may this thought go from my comment to Allah's ear.

altadenahiker said...

A noble and necessary dialogue. I'm trying to help from the ground up, and am active in five charities to help preserve the earth and the creatures who share it.

dbdubya said...

This is one of your finest photos, Laurie. And Yak, you've said it perfectly well.

Mister Earl said...

Yak - There is actually a program where Israeli and Palestinian children interact with each other in normal activities. I saw something about it on TV.

Unfortunately there are other programs where little children are given textbooks that show Palestinians driving the Jews into the sea at gunpoint.

Laurie said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for commenting today. This post is about the horror of slaughtered children, and the hopeful light of organizations that only see people in terms of human beings in need of help.

In that spirit, I am not going to comment on your analysis, Mister Earl, other than to say that I appreciate your position, and your metaphor is certainly one that is widely quoted in media and accepted by most, but not in my opinion one reflective of the historical context of the Gaza Strip, its captive inhabitants or the collective experience of the entire Palestinian people. When children are bleeding and dying as I write this, after months of being starved and held captive behind walls, I do not want to debate whether there is some kind of justification for this violence. I just want the killing to stop. I will gladly give you my impressions another time.

Yak, I love the idea of a poster representing peace between Israeli and Palestinian. I'll send you the file and I'm sure you'd design something beautiful. Yet another collaboration!!! I'm so glad you picked up on why, exactly, I picked this image. It represents for me the hope of exactly what you said.

Jutilda, thank you for the amazingly over-the-top props! I consider you a philanthropic inspiration. No matter how much or little you may have, you always go out of your way to share with those less fortunate and you always look for new ways to help. Your first thoughts after a head-on collision with broken bones and shards of glass sticking out of you were of whether or not the other people involved were okay. You are something special, and I'm so glad you're my sister.

Farmgirl, you know I'm down with the credit union people! WHat a great story about the Christmas relief trip.

I appreciate all of you for taking the time to comment -- and to wade through my novella posts of late. Gee, for a photoblog I sure make you read a lot. :-)

Peace, everybody.

Til tomorrow...

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Mister Earl, there is no analogy in the world that can justify bombing churches and schools. I don't care if the devil himself is holed up inside a church. Do. Not. Bomb. Churches. Ever.

Furthermore, as a resident of San Diego, if missles starting flying across the border from Tiajuana, I could simply get in my car and drive away to safety. Gaza's borders are closed. Killing a confined population IS genocide.

Finally, the entire world can plainly see that Israel is using phosphorus shells (made in the USA) on Palestians, which is against INTERNATIONAL LAW. If Israel is in the right, as so many claim, why can't they play by the rules?

Just like Americans try to ignore the awful things our government does, the proof is right there in pictures. You can't explain away what the rest of the world can plainly see with their own eyes.

Virginia said...

This kind of discussion is why I am proud to be a part of this CDP . Thank you for expressing what you are passionate about. I pray that our world will find a way to live in peace in my lifetime. As Mother Teresa said so beautifully, " In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love."

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Mister Earl, I want to apologize for the anger in my last post. I have no beef with Jewish people, and believe the majority of Israelis are good people. Like Americans and the citizens of many nations, the actions of a government don't necessarily represent the ethics and morals of the population.

However, as a democracy, we DO have the responsibility of calling out and removing our elected officials when they defy our trust and intent.

Mister Earl said...

SD Farmgirl:

No need to apologize, but thanks. I think you missed the point of my analogy, which was, if you a San Diegan, had to worry about rocket fire from Mexico hitting your home or your kid's school, you'd expect and demand that Washington do something to stop it. I agree that it's not good to bomb churches or schools, but what if those churches or schools are being used to store explosives and weapons?

I don't agree with everything that Israel does, and I think the current situation is horrible for many reasons. But the Israeli government may have as its objective getting Hamas out of the picture and showing the people that Hamas cannot protect them. If Hamas is pushed out, there may be a better chance for peace.

I admit I don't know a lot about the history of Gaza, but it's not all a creation of Israel. When I was in Israel someone told me, "You Americans think there is a solution to every problem, but maybe some problems do not have a solution." I hope that's not the case.

Laurie said...

Mister E, I can recommend some great books if you're interested. I've read a couple of dozen about the history of the region. Also, there are some excellent documentaries and a few blogs I could point out.

Mister Earl said...

I know, Laurie, but here's the problem. I know the history from the Jewish/Israeli point of view. There's really going to be no meeting of the minds here about the past. But something needs to be done about the present. The history of Israel is a history of a country under seige, and always having to defend itself because others didn't want it to exist. I know this to be a fact: Israelis do not teach their children to hate Arabs. Arabs have taught their children to hate Israel and Jews for decades. They have in recent decades taught their children that it's better to blow oneself to smithereens to kill a few Jews than it is to make peace and build a better place. When you have people who think like that, what does it matter about the history?

The other day someone alluded to the idea that those in Gaza could be expected to react the way they do based on their history. Well you need to consider that 5 million Jews were slaughtered not that long ago while the world stood by and did very little. The mindset of Israel comes from that history and a belief that Jews can never again allow themselves to be slaughtered. I don't have a lot of confidence that one day Iran or somebody else will not attempt to drop nuclear bombs on Israel. One day they might succeed. Nobody really can teach the Jews and the Israelis anything about what it is to suffer and to face extermination.

San Diego Farmgirl said...

Mister Earl, the Jews aren't the only people who have suffered and faced extermination.

For starters, our American forefathers butchered 100 million Native Americans. Only 1 million people today have any native blood whatsoever, and the purebreds number in the thousands. Now tell me, how are the Jewish people worse off?

Ask an Armenian to tell you about their holocaust.

Take a trip to Africa.

This idea that the world owes Israel an open-ended favor because the holocaust happened is ridiculous. No, I wouldn't want to live in San Diego if Mexico was lobbing bombs at my house; but, I wouldn't want little kids in Tiajuana to have their skin burned off by illegal phosphorus shells, either.

You can bomb the world to pieces, Mister Earl, but you can't bomb the world to peace.

R said...

SD Farmgirl:

My previous comment was an attempt to at least explain the mindset of the Israelis. Your response about other groups who have been victimized really doesn't address that. The world does not owe Israel a favor, but Israel will defend itself from those who want it gone. And that is what Hamas wants. No you wouldn't want kids in Tijuana burned, but if it was a matter of your own survival, you would look at it differently. Here's an article that gives some insight into the Israeli view of what's happening:

Mister Earl said...

The previous post was from Mister Earl.

Laurie said...

San Diego Farmgirl, thank you for your thoughtful comments.

Mister Earl, by your own admission above, you know very little about the history of Gaza -- which I wager means the history of the Palestinian people. You also said that you understand the history "from an Israeli/Jewish point of view." As a bookish type, I wince at talking about history presented "from a point of view." History is history, and all perspectives and experiences must be included in the record of it.

Please refer to my earlier statement that this is a post about the slaughter of children and the humanitarians who only want to help. If you would like to discuss the MIddle East, let's take it to email. This is inappropriate.

May I just say that reading historical records and all forms of furthering one's education only enlightens. Intellectual incuriosity based on ethno-nationalism or xenophobia or us v. them mentality can only foster the violence it asserts it "doesn't understand." And this bizarre stereotype that Arabs teach hate and Israelis do not is at best uninformed of basic human nature across ALL nationalities and ethinicities, and at worst racist propaganda. For all the Jews, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Wiccans, Pagans, athiests, blacks, whites, Asians, Latinos and others who join hands as humanitarians seeking understanding -- please don't push that kind of hate on my humanist blog. I have Arab and Jewish readers who deserve better content here.

This was supposed to be a post about hope. Please respect my intentions.