If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month, get married.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody else.
— Chinese Proverb
My dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
Is it still Father’s Day when you are without your kids? It feels anything but. Holidays are the hardest without you guys.
But, if it’s any consolation, there are others much worst off than us. Trust me.
A quick look at the news will show the tragedies that unfold around the world each day. The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said, “More people fled last year than at any other time in our records. Around the world, almost 60 million have been displaced by conflict and persecution. Nearly 20 million of them are refugees, and more than half are children.” (Under international law, a displaced person must be outside of his or her country in order to even trigger the analysis of whether he or she qualifies as a refugee.) http://www.cnn.com/2015/06/20/world/un-world-refugee-day/index.html. The Washington Post reported that the “nation of the displace” now has a population equal that of the United Kingdom. http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/new-un-report-says-worlds-refugee-crisis-is-worse-than-anyone-expected/2015/06/17/a49c3fc0-14ff-11e5-8457-4b431bf7ed4c_story.html. As a result of the recent earthquake in Nepal, for example, “[m]ore than 4,800 people [are] dead. More than 9,200 [are] injured. Eight million [are] affected across Nepal. One million children [are] urgently in need of help.” http://www.cnn.com/2015/04/28/asia/nepal-earthquake/index.html.
There is much suffering in the world. It needs people to help it be a better place. There are trees to be planted for the environment, and houses to be built for those who cannot afford their own. There are hungry people to be fed. Lonely people to be comforted.
You just have to open your eyes, and look around you. You don’t have to look far. You will find that those who need help may include your neighbors, your classmates, your friends. Nearly one in four children in America live in poverty, and go hungry on a regular basis. See, e.g., http://nccp.org/topics/childpoverty.html; and, http://abcnews.go.com/US/hunger_at_home/hunger-home-american-children-malnourished/story?id=14367230. (Ironically, at the same time, “[o]ver a third of all adults [in the U.S.] and 17% of teenagers and children are obese.” http://wgno.com/2015/06/04/obesity-in-the-u-s-fast-facts/.) Churches and organizations like Habitat for Humanity need people to help them help others.
I failed you by not introducing you to public service earlier. I should have actively shown you how we help others. For example, during our time together, among other things, I volunteered with Legal Aid Services to help victims of domestic violence, Habitat for Humanity to help build homes for the poor, and a Food Bank to help feed the hungry. I also lead efforts to protect the kids in our neighborhood by trying to persuade a church that it is a bad idea to hold its weekly ministry for convicted sex offenders and other convicted criminals within 60 steps of your school and less than half a mile from a second elementary school. I should have involved you, or discussed these activities with you.
That will change when we are together again. There are so many things we could do to help others. For example, before you were born, I
- helped get groceries for our elderly neighbors
- worked with a priest to chop wood for a poor family to help them keep warm during the winter.
- volunteered with a relief nursery to help prevent child abuse, and a homeless shelter for families.
- drafted a policy for a government agency to prevent hypothermia in the homeless population, worked with government officials and community leaders to implement that policy, and volunteered at the shelter on cold nights when it opened its door to those who could find no other shelter.
- spent years working with refugees in the U.S. and overseas, and had the privilege of working with some very good international human rights lawyers.
I have met children who were born and grew up behind barbed wire fences of refugee camps, and had never known soft grass beneath their feet, the gentle purr of a kitten, or the joy of an ice-cream cone. I have met a woman who worked double shifts at a fast food restaurant to support her children while they stayed in a homeless shelter.
There are many people out there who are poor or marginalized through no fault of their own. They work hard, but the vagaries of life conspire against them. They cannot get ahead, and need our help.
Try to help them whenever you can. It doesn’t have to be much. It could be a smile at someone who thinks the world has forgotten they exist, a comforting word for someone in emotional turmoil, or a sandwich for someone hungry.
(Be smart, though, when you do help someone. For example, DO NOT EVER go near or get into a stranger’s car if they should ask you to get something out of their car for them, for example. As always, use your brain.)
Hopefully, my sons, until we are together again, helping others may help lessen the pain of our separation. Until then, be well. Be good. Be happy.
All my love, always,