Love is All That Matters: After my NDE, I think about love a lot because one of the central messages from the light was that love is all that matters. How does a person choose to love the world in each moment? Maybe love is not being jaded to the pain of this world. We see so many images, so many percentages about people suffering that sometimes we feel a certain resistance to feeling or doing anything about their suffering. Love is caring enough to do something about a problem, and any contribution toward a solution is better than doing nothing.
Human Trafficking: While traveling through Mumbai, India a few years ago, I saw a child I wanted to rescue from the streets. Honestly, I wanted to rescue them all, but this particular young boy came up to my window in the backseat, and I could see that he had a cold. His nose was running. I thought about all the kids who have mothers who take their temperatures, tuck them in bed, and read them a story. I thought about the children who don’t have mothers, but have fathers or grandparents who do this for them. I knew this child most likely had to give his cash to the mafia who controlled him, but the shock of coming face to face with a beautiful, abandoned child hit me with palpable force. I’m not a photographer, but I snapped this young boy’s picture and then handed him most of the rupees in my wallet. The locals in the car with me assured me that he would not get any of that money, but I didn’t care. Maybe someone would be nice to him that night and give him more rice for bringing in a good haul. Maybe they would at least give him a smile. I could forgo one day of shopping in the markets for lovely jewelry, handbags, and scarves.
Donating: The child reminds me that status, pleasure, worldliness means very little when children and adults are treated this way. I am not free when millions of people are enslaved in human trafficking around the world. I look at his picture from time to time, so that I can pray for him and remember his eyes, his need, and his sadness. Praying for him (though important) isn’t enough, so I donate to organizations focused on liberating people from human trafficking like Polaris, UNICEF, and others. My rule with donating is to donate to the point it hurts a little, but not to the point where it comprises saving money, taking care of myself, or working on my goals so that I can donate more in the future.
Educating Others: Help does not always have to be monetary help though. For me, returning to the love I had for the world as a child helps me to prioritize my energy. For every good meal I eat, I think about how that boy goes hungry and consider what I can do to help with the energy I have from this meal. For starters, I educate my students about human trafficking, even if it is only the occasional article or Ted Talk video. Many students choose this topic as their research topic. Great books like The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks have been inspired by a moment in a lecture at a community college. I have faith that one or more of my community college students might do amazing work to help end human trafficking. My energy can be multiplied if I can convince others to care about this issue.
Become Like the Little Children: Another lesson from the light during my NDE was that I should remember the purity of my soul during childhood and return to that place. As a child, I was moved by commercials about starving children in Africa. Though I grew up rather poor myself and was rather skinny, I wasn’t starving. When I made mud pies in my backyard, I always made a lot of them and imagined that I was feeding chicken pot pies (one of my favorites) to all the starving children. I cared. I wanted to help. I always included these children in my prayers, and sometimes at night I had beautiful dreams where I met with a few of them in the heavens and talked about how we could teach people in the world to love more and care more for others.
Be Open to the Suffering of Others: I remember years later when parodies about these type commercials came out, I didn’t laugh. I laugh at most satire and most silly skits from Saturday Night Live, but I preferred the mindset of the young girl who desired to help others. Children feel for others, but as adults we put up barriers to feeling because to look at someone’s suffering changes us. We know that we can help, but giving monetarily rubs up against our own worldly goals of accumulations things, enjoying services, and fine food. We tell ourselves we work hard for our lifestyles and deserve fine things, and to some degree we do. However, where does the accumulation end? When do we have enough when others have nothing?
Legacy: I wonder how many people who have been taken to the cleaners in divorce court because of a greedy spouse wish that they could transfer some of that money to starving children. I’m sure many people want the money back for themselves, but given the choice of not having it or helping children, I wonder if they would chose helping children. I hope so. I hope they can see the futility of amassing great wealth but not helping others. Having wealth without helping others leaves their souls sad and poor. In the end, what we take with us is the good we have done in the world. That is our reward. We don’t take our accumulations of wealth with us. We take memories of love and kindness with us. We relive these memories and know we have reached a place of transcendence when the majority of our time was spent helping others.
Foreign Adoptions: For me, love is saying a prayer of thanks to all the people with the money and ability to adopt children from countries around the world. I don’t make fun of Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Sandra Bullock, Mary-Louise Parker, Julie Andrews, Meg Ryan, Katherine Heigl, Charlize Theron, or Jillian Michaels. I say a prayer of thanks for their kindness, for having a calling to rescue a child from a foreign land, and for their ability to do what I would do given their resources. An image of dinner at their homes makes me smile. I say a prayer for all the other families who are not in the media and who donate their time and energy to help others or who have adopted a child domestically or from a foreign country.
Love for that child in Mumbai is never forgetting him and writing down these thoughts. I hope others read my blog, contact me, and educate me about ways I can help in the movement to end human trafficking. Love always wins. It is the light that illuminates the darkness.