I believe the tragedies of this world can be reclaimed for good. That the pain should not be avoided, but faced head on.
This year has been tough. Not just the kind of tough that comes while working late nights on tight deadlines. It’s the kind of tough that comes with emotional weight that sinks its grip deep into your soul. A sadness that you carry with you long after the situations or trauma have passed. Where you see the worst parts of the world over and over again.
The work I do at Invisible Children is already tragic. Working to end a war involving child soldiers is never light. Our work continually exposes the reality that international justice is a nice concept that in reality has no teeth. Working in a world where the world’s most prolific child abductor’s location is known, has be indicted by the International Criminal Court for over 9 years, and still has not been brought to justice is a hard reality to live and work in.
Those who work with me at Invisible Children know that, besides the tragedy of LRA violence, there are a multitude of other reasons we could have called it quits this year. Hundreds of reasons reasons we could say we’d done enough, or that our work wasn’t worth pursuing any more. This year we’ve seen many reasons to give up; abuse, attitudes of entitlement and arrogance in our partners, unexpected deaths of some of our most committed supporters and staff, massive administrative and legal roadblocks, deep apathy and ignorance. But, most devastatingly, we have seen how time is easily wasted fighting about things that don’t matter, by those who claim to be in it for reasons that do.
Most days, the problems seem too big.
When I think about the complexity and enormity of these problems, I begin to ask myself some questions.
Is it worth it? Does what I’m doing even make a difference? How do I continue?
In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl, an Auschwitz survivor, argues that the individuals who find the most meaning in life and are the most resilient do three things: have close intimate relationships, find a purpose outside themselves, and find a redemptive meaning to their suffering.
So why do I continue? As Viktor suggested, it is these three basic things:
- For the people I fight beside and for. They are beautiful people who have rich dreams for this world. I want to see their countless hours of work matter, their hopes that the world will someday be free of the worst kinds of violence and abuse become reality. Most importantly, I remind myself regularly of the people I fight for, children who live in captivity at the hands of rebels, by no choice of their own. I continue so that they can not only return home, but so that they will have a chance to dream of more than their daily reality of death and abuse.
- To serve something besides myself. I continue so my world is not just about me, my money, my security, my comfort. I learn more and more that I do not like a world in which I am the center. When others are the center of my world, my motivations, vision, and perspective all fall into line. I am freed from my own ego and the internal captivity that self-centeredness brings.
- To redeem suffering. I continue because I do not want tragedy to be the final word. So that the hard work, late nights, and emotional breakdowns matter. Trusting that my suffering can create a resilience and character inside of me that I could not gain any other way. Hoping that my pain can be used to heal and speak to others’ pain. Believing and seeing that those formally affected by the LRA are now helping others heal in their own communities. Former LRA victims are helping returnees adjust to life out of the bush. Children from war torn communities have graduated and are now serving children in the communities they came from. I see the repurposing all around me.
I’m allowing myself to fully feel the pain of suffering and joy of redemption alike. Both will be my motivating force.