**post edit note…I wrote this fast. I wish I had more time to take on this, but I don’t so I hope it somehow conveys how I feel…and what I learned from these books.
We have read three really great books lately in my book club.
I love love love when a book takes you into a different world…and teaches you things from a different perspective. And these three did that in a pretty powerful way for me.
I was taken into the life of a wise and loving Muslim father writing letters to his sons as I read Letters to a Young Muslim
. I was taken to a world I hear about and think about but don’t know intimate details about. That book was beautiful because he wasn’t just writing to his sons…he wrote to me. So many universal truths in his words and so much I related to in my own religion. He also included lots of interesting history and mostly beautiful things about how to take responsibility in life and to soak up knowledge and truth.
I cannot do a review of this book justice in the short amount of time I have to write this post…I have a bazillion pages turned over so it’s difficult figure out what to quote, but here’s one of those things I thought extra poignant: “Saif, I want you to be aware of the well-constructed path to a closed worldview that will, if followed, lead a person to a dangerous place. It can lead a well-meaning and sincere child to a place of close-minded anger and aggression.”…and also “Responsibility means looking out for the disadvantaged in your community. Look for them. They will not always be visible. Our societies tend to focus on the new, the clean, the young, the beautiful. Who wants to think about the ugliness and unhappiness in life? I want you to devote some of your time to helping those who are on the borders of society. He goes on to talk about how education has the power to change the world.
Oh so much more, but in short, I think everyone should read that book. In fact, it’s been a few months and I’ve forgotten a lot, I should read it again. So many truths ring true there and it gives so much insight into the Muslim world. I love books that make me think and feel that much. That book is HERE
if you want to check it out.
Then we read Where the Wind Leads
which is an incredible story of the journey of a Vietnamese refugee family, saved because of the goodness of an organization looking for “boat people” who needed rescue in the South China Sea.
(The book is HERE.)
It tells of this strong family in Southern Vietnam, how they fled the country when the North took over. It made me think of how quickly governments can change, how quickly people can turn, how resilient people can be, and it made me ponder deeply the “coincidences” that happen in life. I could do a whole blog post about that, my mind has been so jumbled with thoughts about “divine design” and what it means to me lately. Hopefully I can get to that at some point. Lately my mind has been so overrun with so many ideas and thoughts I wish I could put together with more of a semblance of order. But back to the book…
We hear about refugees all the time. They are in the news every day. We raised money in our Children for Children concert a couple years ago to help refugees in Greece (back HERE and HERE)
. You hear their stories, watch video clips online, listen to the news and learn about the extreme need for help.
But this book takes you into the very story of one family, and it is powerful. It is powerful because amidst a sea of worry and woes and overarching problems, it tells the story of one organization that went against so many telling them their ideas couldn’t help…the problems are too large…too many governments’ hands are tied, an unanswerable problem…and decided to take action anyway, even if it only meant a drop in a bucket.
And it tells about what a difference that “drop” made.
It was extra fascinating to me because I’ve been there…to Vietnam, to Cambodia…I’ve studied the calamities that went on there, and this simple book brought those stories I heard to life in such a haunting way. It gave me more of an understanding of what governments are going through…the sheer number of those who need help is so overwhelming. How good intentioned people can be jaded from not having the answers to help. It taught me that even though we can’t “fix” these problems with a magic wand, we can do something.
The thing that hit me the most is this: (and this may be a spoiler alert, so beware!) That this huge extended family leaves Vietnam. Through their journey they find themselves separated on four fishing boats floating out to sea. One is rescued, and after quite a journey, the survivors are finally “sponsored” in America where they work their hearts out to make ends meet because they have the opportunity to do so. And every one of them is able to make something of their lives. They do amazing things. So much resilience. The other three fishing boats float back to Vietnam. The most poignant part of the story to me is at the end when the author (who was three at the time he was rescued in that fishing boat and has now graduated Magna Cum Laude from Harvard University and has gone on to get his MD at Harvard Medical School, is also a Fulbright Scholar and holds a master of theology) goes back to Vietnam and finds his cousins who’s fishing boats floated back to Vietnam all those years ago.
The author says: “For me, visiting Vietnam was like walking into a parallel universe–the life that would have been mine if the current had been a bit stronger or if the wind had shifted direction. As I stood there in my parallel universe, looking at my alternate life, I found myself feeling guilty and ashamed–guilty because I had received a blessing they had not, and ashamed because I had not done more to help them…Why me?…why did the same wind take our boat in one direction and theirs in another? We were blessed-there’s no other way to say it–but why weren’t they? Were we more worthy in some way? Were we more deserving of rescue? I don’t see how; my family’s entire contribution to our rescue was to lie there waiting to die….
“…I worked long and hard to get where I am today, but the humbling truth is that all my hard work has been possible only because of a blessing I received that I did nothing to deserve. I believe that blessing is something I am expected to pass on to other people any way I can. I think that’s what we are all expected to do.”
I related so much with this. I think about it every day. There is so much to give in life, no matter where we are coming from. I’m sure those cousins who were left in Vietnam have their own way of giving as well. So do those Muslim sons of Omar Ghobash he was calling to action in his book, and the rest of us. We all have such responsibilities…we just need to figure out how
to give. Our own unique ways we can give. There are people suffering right where we are every day. Just as Sharon Eubank says in her talk I shared back HERE
, WE are the gift. We need to reach out and do what we can in our own ways to lift and build, even if what we are giving seems small and insignificant.
I love that right as I was finishing that book, I got an email from someone wanting to make a difference for refugees.
I don’t know, but I think the timing was pretty great. Sometimes the problems in the world are so overwhelming we throw up our hands and don’t know what to do. But we can choose to wring our hands in despair or do SOMETHING. Even if that “something” doesn’t seem earth shattering. And I love that these guys are doing something. Our family is going to join them.
Here’s a little about what they are doing with lots of videos and links HERE
This is what Tracey (the person putting it together) says:
“The refugee problem is so enormous; it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder what we can possibly do to help. But after watching video after video about this latest crisis in Bangladesh, I just kept saying to myself, “I can’t do nothing”. I remember going to the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, and being shocked at how many Americans ignored or denied what was going on in Europe. For that reason, I want to make sure I do something to help these refugees. I don’t want to look back and realize, that while all these horrible things were going on, I did nothing. I felt bad, but ignored it because I was too busy, didn’t know what to do, or couldn’t believe it was actually happening!
The idea is instead of spending money by going out on this particular Friday (April 6th)– stay home, make an inexpensive meal, play a board game or watch a movie you already own – donate the money you saved and take the opportunity to talk with your family about where the money is going.”
I love that idea. Such an easy way to raise awareness in our families and make a contribution. Join our family as we join them on April 6th if you can!
May we all find ways to lift and build and make a difference in our own unique ways.
I’m just finishing the third book I want to talk about ….will get to it soon!