Nepal, you are breaking my heart right now.
The earthquake: the dead, the missing, the injured. Those without water, food, or shelter. The villages decimated, temples destroyed, aid not getting in fast enough. The corruption, the lack of coordination, the helpless feeling when you care and you live halfway around the world.
Yes, there are stories of resilience. A generous people coming together to give whatever they have to those worse off than they. First responders offering tents, food, and water. People raising money and sending what they can to those who have sheltered them, cared for them, guided them, shared their lives. Students collecting tents and tarps and funds, wishing they could do more.
I have never been to Nepal, and yet this tragedy touches me deeply. Maybe it’s because since I fell in love with the Andes, I feel an affinity to mountain people everywhere. Maybe it’s because I am scheduled to travel there this summer for the first time and that trip is understandably on hold for now. Maybe it’s all the people I know whose hearts and lives have become intertwined with the Nepali through time spent among them. Maybe it’s because two young travelers from Seattle are still missing and it makes me think about their parents and all the parents who send their children on the kinds of programs I lead.
This event and its aftermath also make me painfully aware of the inequities and injustices in our world. A world in which people can pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to climb a mountain in places where citizens are living on less than one dollar a day. Where high school students can pay thousands of dollars to travel for personal growth and educational development. A world that includes governments who don’t enforce building codes so structures collapse when natural disaster hits. I am painfully aware that I am among the privileged, that I can travel and learn from others and my life is richer for it. I only hope I give back in some meaningful way, and that I help instill compassion in the students with whom I work.
The decision I made at some point, to share my heart with those I meet, means that even when I don’t know people in some remote place on our precious planet, I hurt with them. This hurt inspires action: on the individual level, I will get involved with groups who are giving direct aid; on the professional level I will be sure to teach always from a place of compassion; and on a global level I will ponder what we need to do to promote justice and peace in the world.