Some of you may remember on Sept 28th the post about the Nepalese man who, as a young man, had been held in a Chinese prison for four years for writing “Free Tibet ” on buildings in Lhasa. He told me about how, as he endured beatings, he learnt to transform anger into compassion. And now that compassion was a gift to the elderly residents suffering dementia at the aged care home where he worked in Sydney.H On the day he chose a Buddha happily and I walked away to catch a tram home.
But his story followed me home and it continues to have an effect on me to this day.
Over many months I had been increasingly disturbed by what I had been learning about the effect of detention on refugee children who had been sent to Manus island and Nauru with their families who had attempted enter Australia by boat.
I oppose our government’s policy which puts children in these conditions.
Having worked with children in my profession for 30 years I am very aware of the long term damage that is done when children do not receive the love and care they need . And its so deeply troubling when they lose all hope.
There had been a sense of inertia not knowing how best I could help this very sad situation. So I did nothing except occasionally donate to refugee aid groups and send metta.
It seemed such a solid, not negotiable government line. And I was also aware many people in Australia probably see the policy as effective in its aim to stop the boats coming.
But the families and children have been placed away from our local communities so it is easy to avoid hearing about the range of effects of this harsh policy.
So the suffering continues and I worry most about the children.
On that day sitting on the tram after meeting this man from Nepal I knew I needed to take more action. Something that had been simmering for a while bubbled up and I knew I had to take at least one step towards the problem- instead of feeling it was insurmountable.
At the very least I wanted to add my voice to the protest and say ….not in my name does this government speak or act with my agreement on this issue.
But what action to take…..with whom , where, how…..
As I gazed out of the tram window a memory came of a time a few months ago when I was walking through the city to hand out a buddha and I saw a group of women dressed in purple standing in the city centre with signs saying Grandmothers Against Detention of Refugee Children. I noted it and felt a peak of interest but walked on by and did nothing on that particular day.
But now it was time and by that night I had joined the local group and made a commitment to attend any of their rallies when I could, write to politicians and drop the group’s leaflets around in public places.
There are multiple groups to join and support and many actions that could be taken. I can study the Buddhist texts and talk endlessly about compassion but it feels empty if I can’t manage even just a small step towards trying to do something to ease others’ suffering.
There is a beautiful teaching in the Buddhist text ‘Karaniya metta’ sutta that says in part:
‘…Even as a mother protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish all living beings;
Radiating kindness over the entire world:
Spreading upwards to the skies,
And downwards to the depths;
Outwards and unbounded,
Freed from hatred and ill-will….’
I thank this man from Tibet, this half an hour chat with a stranger. When he chose to tell me his story he inadvertently broadened my vision of what is possible, even when it seems that there are huge barriers in the way.
I am grateful to him for this particular stirring from inertia in relation to this troubling issue on my doorstep.