World events impact us. Life happens. Power, politics, war and armed conflict, natural disasters, loss, broken relationships…they’re the kind of things you pray will never happen to you and when you are not directly impacted, you sometimes shut it all out. It’s often too painful, too unreal, too negative, so our natural survival instincts block them out. But when you are impacted, or an event like that touches close to home, we all need that friend, that support network who will see us through. We need the antidote to it all – love, care, hope and strength to survive, and then thrive again. Those sisters or brothers may be your biological ones, or they may not be. Either way, they are the family you can cry ugly with or call in the middle of the night because you are panicked and don’t think you can make it or they are the ones who will knock down your door to rescue you.
Many of us from Freetown, Sierra Leone have needed our closest support circles this week in the wake of the mudslides that have claimed hundreds of lives and resulted in mass burials. My family and I have been watching the news from outside Sierra Leone and have been connecting with those at home, thankful that all our kin are safe. Perhaps, because I’ve been touched and brushed by life and world events a few times now, I responded to a message from a friend this week in a matter-of-fact kind of way: “yes, my family are all ok and we are thankful, but Sierra Leone is small and I’m bracing to hear about people I know who are impacted.”
Since then, I have heard about a family friend who lost a brother, and my niece lost a friend that she had just posted pictures with on facebook last week. My family friend, my niece, the brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, partners, aunts, uncles, children and all who have lost loved ones this week in Sierra Leone need their closest support circles to stand with them. Simply put by our Sierra Leonean reporter Umaru Fofana: “expect raw emotions…” And as we say in Sierra Leone: “Rain nor dae fordom na one man domot” – rain doesn’t only fall on one person’s doorstep. It’s a parable that implies that life impacts all of us and it behooves us to care for each other because we never know when we will need a helping hand. This parable was the inspiration for the short story Standing in the Rain in Identities: A short story collection (see excerpt below). It’s what I think of whenever I hear people who have never experienced the tragedy and pain that comes with world events say, “I’ve cut cable – the news is too negative so I don’t watch it anymore.” I understand the sentiment of needing to care and make psychological space for yourself, but when you’ve been there, distancing or ignoring what’s happening to others in the world isn’t an option. How can any of us support others if we don’t know how real people are being impacted by pain and suffering in our world daily? If we were the ones in a tragedy, would we want the rest of humanity to ignore our suffering? So yes, please cut the cable if you will, but open your eyes, ears and heart somehow to what is happening around you. Yes, no one of us can carry the world’s burdens. We are not meant to. Each of us though can do our part in our small corner of the world. We are part of the same human circle and without compassion we are nothing.
Standing together is a universal principle. It holds whether you are in Sierra Leone this week, or in India last month that also experienced death toll from mudslides or in my second home in British Columbia, Canada that has been ravaged by wild fires all summer with tens of thousands impacted. This is life. It’s good and it can be bad and ugly. We need rain to survive and thrive, and sometimes it causes floods and mudslides. I do believe however, that if we stand in the rain with each other, there is nothing humanity cannot overcome, learn from and protect each other against. I know this is not simple. I know it takes all that we are and have available to us. From faith and divine hope to planning and strategy. From love and support to mourning and lament. Applying our hearts and emotions as well as our head and our hands to find ways forward. This is the fullness of life and standing in the rain is about doing life together in all its fullness. Please, stand in the rain with others.
Some have sent me messages asking how they can help the Sierra Leone mudslide emergency relief efforts. Please see below a list I got from a colleague in Sierra Leone and a family member in Canada involved in an organization doing disaster relief. Please note that I do not endorse any of these and have not been solicited/sponsored to list them. They are also in no particular order. Please check the information available from each organization if you decide to make a donation.
- World Relief Canada
- Visit Sierra Leone: For transparency all donations can be viewed here:
- Sierra Leone Red Cross
- Tacugama – Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary is located right next to the affected areas. They are providing direct relief to flood survivors and also long term will continue the important work on environmental protection which is necessary to prevent this happening again:
- Mama-Pikin Foundation: US-registered foundation supporting mothers and children in the aftermaths on the ground in Sierra Leone.
For support to the British Columbia wildfire victims in Canada as well, please see:
- The damage so far and how you an help: Globe and Mail
- Canada Red Cross
See more about Identities: A short story collection.