“What is the essence of life? To serve others and to do good.” -Artistotle
“Don’t just aspire to make a living, Aspire to make a difference!” – Denzel Washington
As we remember Martin Luther King Jr. today and all those who made a difference, I reflect on how you and I can make a difference in this world. Is there something you need to do? Is there someone you should call?
I watched the movie, “Priceless” this past week. Heavy topic. It deals with sex trafficking in the United States. And how one man made a difference. It’s a heavy topic, but we need to be talking about this stuff in order to help these girls and women who get thrown into that world. As I watched this movie I once again realized how blessed I am. And that I have an obligation to make a difference in this world.
Charity: Operation Underground Railroad. One charity that is making a large difference in the trafficking world. I’ve been following them for a couple years now and I’m proud of their efforts.
“The biggest disease today is not leprosy or tuberculosis, but rather the feeling of being unwanted.” ~Mother Teresa
I visited a charity, Rising Star Outreach, in Southeast India in 2016. We went into leprosy colonies and met people who have had leprosy for a very long time. Raw people. People as raw as you will find anywhere in the world. Not only skin raw down to the bone, but raw in humility. These are the people who have been beaten down their entire lives. They’ve been overlooked. Passed by. Shunned. Forgotten. It’s humbling to watch these men and women come into the clinics and allow us to look at, wash, clean, dig out sores and re-bandage their limbs.
You can see in the eyes of these people how they’ve consciously decided to share their deepest pains and struggles with us because they know they can’t help themselves. They need others to help. What would happen if I needed to do the same thing with my struggles, trials and sins? And what if I DID do that. I have a feeling my heart would heal faster. My wounds would clean better. I would love more people because I allowed them to serve me. And I would be more humble.
Here are a few of the faces of leprosy.
I learned that we have a cure for leprosy. Antibiotics would stop it when it starts. And yet, so many people don’t have access to simple antibiotics. Rising Star Outreach is going in the right direction. Educating children from these leprosy colonies and low-income communities. Providing Health Care for those in leprosy colonies. And giving them a way to earn money to support themselves. It’s a great cause to get involved with.
I learned to try and be more open with my struggles as these people are with theirs.
HELP STOP HUMAN TRAFFICKING BY TAKING PICS OF YOUR HOTEL ROOMS WHEN YOU TRAVEL!
On the way back from Sequoia National Park, I stayed in a local hotel that night in Clovis near Fresno, CA. I ended up taking pictures of the hotel room and adding them to this great nonprofit’s website to help stop human trafficking! Traffickcam.org Check it out! Sadly, Fresno area has problems with human trafficking like your town probably does.
I would encourage everyone to help make a difference in this cause by adding photos of hotels rooms so officers can more quickly identify where these traffickers are exploiting women and children.
Get Involved by Uploading Images of your Hotel Rooms on this great website or app. Every photo can make a difference.
This article was written for a Stanford religious congregation’s newsletter with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It might be of interest to readers regardless of their religious affiliation. -Angie
I was asked to write something I feel passionate about…so here I go!
Want to be part of the solution and not the problem? We need to be able to ask better questions and support charities who understand best practices and good principles. And as hard as this is to say, just because they’re an LDS (Christian) affiliated charity, doesn’t mean they understand and practice these principles. I see many examples of people who think they’re supporting good charities and give in good faith and these charities are causing more problems than good.
“Even with the universally accepted desire to help the poor and needy, the Lord concurs in our goal but warns: “But it must be done in mine own way.”(D&C 104:16) Otherwise, in our efforts to help, we may actually hurt them. The Lord has taught us the need to promote self-reliance. Even if we are able to help, we should not give or provide what they can and should do for themselves.” (The Lord’s Way, May 2013, Elder Stanley Ellis)
What is the Lord’s way? Teaching self-reliance. We also need to encourage an attitude of giving back to their neighbors. Otherwise, we encourage an attitude of entitlement. Elder Dale G Renlund helps us understand why this happens, “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.” And finally, one of my favorite quotes by Pres. Uchtdorf from Conference Oct 2011: “There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way. The Lord has said, “It must needs be done in mine own way.” He is not only interested in our immediate needs; He is also concerned about our eternal progression.
There is nothing more sacred than spending time with someone who knows they will die soon.
During the years 2003-2005, I spent more time in Kenya as I worked for a small charity, Reach The Children. I helped run an HIV/AIDS prevention program called, Stay Alive. During one visit we spent some time in a small village, Kendu Bay, near Lake Victoria, where AIDS was rampant with 30% of the population being infected.
One day we visited the local village leader who supposedly ruled everything. He lived by the water where the fishing boats were. This village survived off of fish from the water. I was told the leader and his men would require sex for food if the women couldn’t pay (or even if they could) and the women and children had no other choice otherwise they’d starve. It was so disgusting to me as we walked into this little shack house and pretended to be so grateful he allowed us to enter his domain even though we knew darn well what he was doing. He was obese and didn’t get up to greet us but sat in his chair. I remember not wanting to be in his presence, so I let the rest of the group talk with him while I quietly scooted out the door past his guard looked around outside and discreetly took pictures. The men were sketchy who hung around that area. I was a white woman walking around with colleagues close by, so I knew nothing bad would happen to me, otherwise there’s no way I should have been there.
In this setting and town, I got to know a group of amazing women with HIV. Ann was the mother of the group. They called themselves “Power Positive” and they went around teaching their village about HIV. Like a lot of women and children, these women got HIV from their husbands. The men were dead by this time and left these women to take care of their families. And, these women knew they would die soon too.
These women and their children had written songs and poetry to share their stories. Ann, the leader of this group, wrote a song I will never be able to get out of my head. And I hope it never leaves me. For in singing and remembering her, I carry her with me.
You remember in the movie, Amazing Grace, where the old priest says he has spirits haunting him every day of his life? In a way these memories haunt me. Their stories. This song. These experiences I’ve had. They live in me and keep reminding me to do something to change things. “It’s too late. Just give me a chance to live.” sings Ann and her friends in my ear, my mind and my heart.
I learned: that life is short. And it’s unfair that these women suffered so much grief and heartache because of selfish men. Ann’s voice sings to me quite often telling me to help her people. And so with the strength of her spirit singing in my mind, I keep trying.
Pictures of Kendu Bay, Kenya as I walked around…