Saturday, October 29, 2011

30 Day Challenge, Day 7: A picture of something or someone that has made a big impact on you

Her name is Sharbat Gula, and she is the face and name behind the haunting National Geographic cover. I was six  years old when, being the snoop that I am, I came across my da's old collection of iconic magazine covers. I asked my da, "Why is she so sad? She would be so beautiful if she smiled." My da looked at me sadly and said, "Well, darlin', she looks sad because she and her family lost her home because of war." I naively suggested that we should send her some of my toys, and maybe half my piggy bank so she and her family could find an apartment.

Da looked at me strangely--I remember thinking he looked like he was holding back tears--as he explained to me that while it was sweet that I wanted to help, this little girl and her family were probably already dead. He tried as best he could to explain war, displacement and starvation to a 6-year-old girl. I remember crying myself to sleep that night. "Dead" was a concept I'd yet to understand. To me "death" was like sleeping, and I wanted so badly for a prince to find this beauty, so she could live again. And maybe, just maybe I'd find her one day and send her my toys. Then this girl with the haunting eyes would smile.

It is because of Sharbat Gula that the seed of humanitarianism was planted inside of me. Through the years I became actively involved with advocacy for survivors of war, genocide, gender violence and honour crimes. More often than not, being in this field has brought me heartache. Some days i feel like I cannot bear to hear one more story of raped women and babies killed in front of their mothers.

But then I remember that in 1999, as my da and i were watching PBS, there was a special that caught both our eyes. It was the search for the girl with the haunting eyes.

Her name is Sharbat Gula.

She didn't die.

She was 30 when they found her again, married with children. And her haunting eyes burnt as bright as ever, telling me to keep the faith. To stay the course in humanitarianism. For her. For her children. And for their children, and many more children in generations to come.

Hope lives.

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We must never permit the voice of humanity
within us to be silenced. It is Man's sympathy with all creatures that first makes him a Man.

--Albert Schweitzer

Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.

--Viktor E. Frankl