I’ve had a song stuck in my head all day today. Well actually, one line from a song. The song is Sad Statue by System Of A Down. The song, like most System songs is about the some aspect of the state of the world. The line I’ve had repeating over and over in my head all day is ‘What is in us that turns a deaf ear to the cries of human suffering?!’ It’s a great song, and that line has always struck a chord with me (well, the whole song does but especially that line), so I don’t mind that I’ve been hearing it over and over all day, but I do mind the reason that it came to my mind.
I have a friend who is currently living in Greece. Her name is Anna and she is hands down the most compassionate and giving person I have ever known. I haven’t seen her for many years, but when I did spend a lot of time with her, I don’t think I ever knew of her having a paying job. She studied, but spent the majority of her time volunteering with St John, New Zealands’ ambulance charity and doing other volunteer work.
As I mentioned above, Anna is currently living in Greece. To most of us, that would be an exotic and exciting place to live or even holiday, but Anna is there for a different reason. She’s there as a volunteer, helping the out with the refugee crisis. She’s been there for about a while, helping people in need who have just arrived off the boats from Turkey, towelling them off as they disembark the dangerous rubber boats, giving them dry clothes, food, hugs, an ear, anything that will help. She travels to different areas of Greece to help out where she is needed the most, new challenges arising at every point.
It’s winter over there, and every new day brings with it uncertainty. Not everyone makes the journey across the water, many fall overboard and drown or die of hypothermia and those who do make it are cold, wet and suffering. These are men, women and children of all ages, living with terror and hope at the same time. Already having been through hell in their hometowns, they now flee to a new country, the journey long and arduous and the boat ride is by far not the end of it. From there they go from camp to camp, still uncertain of what will happen even tomorrow. Their lives have been torn apart through no fault of their own.
Anna is amazing and I will freely admit I could not cope with what she is doing. I like to help people, but I don’t think I would have the strength to put myself under the stress she has to deal with daily, seeing awful sights of death, suffering and uncertainty and still keep sane enough to support her own living costs, which Anna has to do while she is over there as well. Being a volunteer goes unpaid after all.
It’s not all bad. She gets to meet some amazing people and hear their stories, witness the community spirit of the Greek people and volunteers doing what they can to help and experience the appreciation of a cold and wet person receiving dry clothes and a smile for the first time in hours. There are language barriers, but compassion is the same in any language. I imagine that it is the heart warming moments like these that make it all worth it for Anna, even on the days where it seems like all is lost. She blogs about her experiences as well, which I have been reading up intently on. The really nice part about her blogs is she doesn’t linger on why things are the way they are, she just explains them, how it affects her, her fellow volunteers and the refugees, the good and the bad.
There was a write up on Stuff.co.nz last night about Anna and another Kiwi volunteer and the situation in Greece. It was a good piece, intended for awareness and as always when reading about the situation, I learned a lot and felt even more in awe of what Anna is doing.
But the comment!
Some articles on Stuff.co.nz are open for comments by readers and there’s always an awful mixture of good and bad comments. Some pleasant and informative, some even helpful, but as is common with opinions, some downright disgusting and ignorant comments are made. I’ve made myself a personal rule: DON’T READ THE COMMENTS!! As it often makes me irate at the audacity of some people, but today I made an exception. I expected there to be lovely comments of support, but there was just one, an absolutely disgusting comment that instantly made me feel sick:
“If you do gooders are that keen than let them stay with you. It’s not our problem.”
Anna shared the link to the article on her Facebook page which is how I found it and after reading this awful comment I immediately commented myself on her link about it. Anna responded that she has taken to ignoring the comments which made me realise that unfortunately, this is an all too common opinion and I’m sure it’s not just limited to New Zealanders.
I get it. We all have our own problems. We all have our own suffering. Hell, this entire blog started because of how many problems I’ve had. But we are not the only ones with problems! If the situation was reversed and we had to flee our country, surely we would want people to help us, not to leave us to suffer in silence without help or hope! Where is the compassion!
This comment is the reason that I’ve had the line ‘What is in us that turns a deaf ear to the cries of human suffering?!’ Stuck in my head all day. I’m guilty of it too, I don’t know a lot about why the refugee crisis is happening. The reason for this is because my anxiety can’t handle it, I can get worked up for days when I think about the state of the world and send myself into depression so I often don’t read news stories or keep up to date with current affairs, however I do want to do what I can to help any bad situation, which is why I help with fundraisers and donate to causes when I can. Without human kindness where would we be?
I don’t think that there is a lot that can be done about the attitudes of some people towards bad situations, it’s human nature to be selfish and ignorance is bliss, but I do believe that anyone who is in a crisis situation deserves our compassion and where possible our assistance, not just a blind eye turned. As Anna says “Let us be angry, but let us also learn to channel it into constructive change.” Which is why I decided to channel my anger on this comment into this post in the hopes of raising some more awareness and maybe getting some more support for the situation.
If you would like to know more about the situation in Greece, you can follow Annas’ journey on her blog The Blog Of Anna McPhee or how you can help from your own couch on her post Lesvos Refugee Crisis: How Can I Help?
Smiles and Sunshine