Hardships still come
One upon the other
Enabling me to see
If my mind truly has
Cast off the world, or not.
-- Myocho Shuho *
Fame is not experienced by most of us. Famous persons seem to be from another dimension, from another land, from somewhere where giants and wonders abound. Fame destroys many. Sometimes it creates saints. I saw a photograph of Ricky Martin bowing in gassho to a room of orphans on an Internet Web site, and thought how wonderful it is to help others.
Ricky Martin, the Puerto Rican singing star, using his fame to decrease human suffering (and his foundation) have begun working with orphans in Thailand. Numerous similar groups are in the fray. Of course there are other groups, like UNICEF, but the choice of one man to use the brilliant light of his fame to help others is what moved me. If we use our Buddhist Dharma gifts as well as Ricky uses his charisma, we'd be beyond fault and upon the correct path.
Charismatic benevolent forces are resisting the approaching vice and exploitation, and this is big good news! This is compassion in action.
How many of us have been wondering about all the children left without families? We wonder how they spend the days, nights, orphaned, and stunned still. Some of us want to reach out to them and help ... but why are some of us more "people of action" while others are more "people of thought"?
I look to my own experience to try to find a corollary so that I might comprehend the magnitude of the crisis faced by these children. I keep thinking about my own childhood, how vulnerable I was, how much I depended upon my parents, and then I try to imagine being all alone in the world, except for the other lost children. What would become of us in these circumstances?
The best I can do is imagine that I am a small boy of 8 or 10 years, all my family gone before my very eyes into the ocean, and now all I have is something like "school" to go to day and night.
Then I read that persons appear claiming to be relatives of the children, and then take them away for horrendous purposes. These individuals have the collective appellation of "traffickers." We learn that the tsunami created a bountiful supply of perfect prey for "the traffickers." (we the AP story, January 13, 2005, "Ricky Martin Tours Battered Thai Island.")
Imagine ourselves as children in this situation ... perfect prey for "traffickers".
When the Asian tsunami hit last month, I became troubled about the plight of the children, and began looking online on the Internet for information on "child slaves" and "children sex slaves." I was appalled. How can so many people be involved in this one evil schema? It was terrifying: a highly efficient organized underground traffics in children, an underground that was up and running, mobilized, long before any international aid workers arrived at Phuket or elsewhere along harbors and beaches. The predators have a system. There is a karmic phenomenon of untold hundreds, maybe thousands, of children moved into slavery. The tales of what happens are too awful to post on a public web site, in my opinion, and are truly significations of evil. (One comment along with a photo really astounded me: When the owners [of children slaves] become bothered by the slave children, either because of boredom or the child becoming ill, they throw them out along the sides of the road to die.)
My teenage years in a monastery school where we all were studying to be priests or monks is the only referent I have to being cast into a large group of strangers and having to live day and night. It is hard to imagine oneself "a child slave." Always, our experience of affiliation with others has been generally nurturing, with small exception.
The tsunami kids, the "harbor wave" victims have only these places of succor, which charitable persons provide. They are great resources for the children, but I fear the evil forces operating to create child slaves are so grand and many that they will insinuate themselves into the lives of many of these orphans. Endless suffering will happen unless help is given, ongoingly-now, and in the years to come.
That's why I wanted to highlight what this one famous man is doing, laying down his desire to acquire material gain, and focusing his brilliant light upon these lost and endangered children. Ricky Martin is a true example of altruism and compassion. He couldn't see the stranded children and sit "with my arms folded," he said.
What begins to appear now upon this picture of devastation is the inscription of human compassion, caring, and benevolence. I had wondered what power it would take to actualize the succor that these children needed. Parallel to this inscribed goodness is the inscription of a massive terror and evil.
I searched the Internet, learning about organizations like "Save the Children" (http://www.savethechildren.org/) and others.
I know the keywords "tsunami", "tsunami generation", and "Ricky Martin" will pop up in "Search Engines" on the Internet quicker than words which carry less "fame" or "news worthiness." Perhaps more persons will focus on the plight of the orphans if "big words" are associated with their plight.
I know that Internet surfers will use Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engines and look up these key words. They will be led to the images of compassion in action. That's why I am writing this short piece, to put one more marker on the Internet where caring persons might find it and take from it the example of altruism and compassion displayed by Ricky Martin. If I could, I'd try to get Elvis Presley to make an appearance in Phuket, or Panton Beach, or Sumatra, or Banda Aceh. Then even more surfers would find these sites, perhaps become interested in the fate of the tsunami kids.
Earlier, an Associated Press photographer reported the plight of little Karl Nillson from Sweden-he'd lost his parents and two brothers. His photo made it to the Internet, to the NBC Nightly News with Tom Brocaw, and thousands of people searched for information on his well-being. Thousands! The power of focused attention in this information age can move hearts, move peoples, and alleviate suffering. Many people contacted me asking about Karl after the first article I posted on this website. He got home to grandfather safely, we learned. Now, I would like to find out what will happen to each of the nearly 400 children alone in Phuket, Thailand.
I would do what it would take to focus lights from all the heavens on these lost tsunami kids. This is not much, not much at all, but it is one way of moving into the realm of selfless, or compassionate, "action."
I looked up the word "tsunami" and learned it is from the Japanese "harbor wave." Harbor wave! I keep trying to make sense of all this, and keep trying to find pathways of understanding that are travelable through such chaos and destruction.
It is a challenge for us all to think of ways we can turn our compassionate thoughts into compassionate actions. I ask, in behalf of the tsunami generation, "How can we turn compassionate feelings and thoughts into compassionate actions?"
There are many vehicles for our goodwill, positive intentions, and energies that can channel help to the kids. We just have to make the decision to do it. If it's donating money, there are many reputable foundations and organizations to choose from, but do the homework first to make sure your money will go to the right cause. Some organizations can also use help in the form of research, letter-writing, phone calls, etc., so money isn't the only way we can give of ourselves. A few (but far from all) organizations that may be worth time investigating include:
Save the Children
United States Fund for UNICEF
Tzu Chi Foundation
Doctors Without Borders
Direct Relief International
International Rescue Committee