Spreading The Word vs. Saving The World
Sixteen Small Stones is about Spreading the Word, and NOT about Saving The World. It took me a while to grasp this concept. I want to share this idea with you so you can better understand Sixteen Small Stones, and how you can be a part of what we are all about. :)
When I first lived in China, I had a fantastic, uneasy experience. I was uneasy because I was in a new country. It was fantastic because I tried to embrace the new culture. Each night, the other foreign teachers I was with would head out to shop, go to bars and clubs, or meet up to watch American movies. I was kind of the odd one who did not participate in their activities. Instead, each night I would hike across the field to the "other" side of the campus.
The school campus was set up so that on one side were the "foreign" things: the foreign teacher housing, the foreign teacher cafeteria, the foreign language building where we taught English, EVERYTHING "foreign" was on one side of the huge field in the middle of campus. Across the field were the Chinese things: student dorms (yes, the kids as young as three years old lived on the campus), the Chinese cafeteria, the Chinese classrooms.
After the sun set and the foreigners were busy doing their American things, off I would go to the other side of the field. First, I would go see my students in their dorms. I would "talk" with them (even though I didn't know much Chinese and they didn't know any more English than what I had taught them...consisting of "Hello", "I like penguins", etc.). I was learning about their lives, but in retrospect, I see that somewhere in my mind, I was still holding to my life. (Of course, it was natural I would do this! I had never experienced this culture, so of course I would use my own culture as a gauge to their culture.) It wasn't that I was unwilling to change, it was that I didn't even realize I was staying the same! It was a shock to see that the way the children "bathed" was by pouring hot water, heated in a tea kettle, over themselves as they stood in a sink. I felt sorry for them that they slept in rooms without air conditioning as the temperatures outside soared in the summer heat. I ached when I saw their caregivers hit or kick them. I still was reacting to situations through the American filter.
It wasn't until I had returned to America that I realized how much I had changed. How I had been influenced by China. How I had begun to realize that my way wasn't the only way, nor was it necessarily the RIGHT way. I now knew that bathing in a sink still got you as clean as bathing in a bathtub, and that sleeping in a room with no air conditioner was actually good for your health!
Have you read the blog "kissesfromkatie.blogspot.com"? It is the blog of a young woman living in Africa. When I first learned of KATIE, I thought she was saving the world. I LOVED it! I wanted to save the world, too! I wanted to take children with old clothes and give them new clothes. I wanted to give the farmers in China houses rather than mud huts. I wanted to give them a "better life".
Then, I read something about Katie. Katie was living in Africa, helping children and adults, and a family was living with her at her house. They were in old, worn out clothes...and Katie was not giving them new clothes! I brushed aside a feeling I had that this was wise, and felt so upset that she wasn't doing more for them! More to "HELP" them!! Soon, though, that nagging feeling made its way to my consciousness and I realized what I knew all along. Katie was not CHANGING the world! She was, instead, telling her story as a way to show people in America that there was suffering. That aid was needed. But not to CHANGE anyone in Africa. The people with whom she was working needed some aid in the form of clean water or education, but they didn't need to be changed!!
That is when I started to realize that this is what Sixteen Small Stones was all about. We are NOT here to "change" the world! In fact, we are not here to CHANGE anything...unless it be ourselves and our hearts and our awareness. We ARE here to AID where it is needed!
It has been a process coming to that point. Moving from the idea that I need to CHANGE something! I don't. What Sixteen Small Stones DOES need to do is 1) bring awareness to the suffering of people, and 2) provide aid to relieve that suffering.
Suffering is a relative term. What I saw as suffering in sleeping without a/c was actually a lifestyle that did NOT need to be changed. There was nothing wrong with it. On the other hand, the kids I saw starving in the streets WERE suffering. But they didn't need change. They needed AID! Someone to HELP them. Someone to tell their story, spread awareness and do something to bring them AID!
To bring aid, we DO have to bring change! But not to any situation "out there"! The only change that needs to be done is in our hearts and our ideas and our motivation. We need to CHANGE our own goals. Sixteen Small Stones is NOT trying to change the world! We are trying to AID THOSE WHO ARE SUFFERING...and that suffering is defined only by THEM, not by us.