Becoming Aware and Having Hope

Dear Pope Francis,

You may have noticed that I didn’t write you any letters last week. Life happened, and it took me to New York for three days for a reunion and symposium on Professional Ethics with Fellowships at Auschwitz for the Study of Professional Ethics. It was a fantastic trip, but it totally threw off my week.

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The Freedom Tower when I was in New York in June 2014

One of the highlights of the trip was finally going to Ground Zero, where the World Trade Towers fell in September 2001. I have wanted to visit Ground Zero since my first trip to New York (with Meredith) in March 2012. It was even more powerful because the Freedom Tower that was built near the same site, was my landmark for navigating between the hotel I stayed in and the museum where the symposium met. Every time I went outside, I located the Freedom Tower so that I would know if I was going the right way.

The Twin Towers collapsed when I was eleven years old. That day, and the ones that followed, marked a turning point in my consciousness. Not only did these events have practical implications for travellers around the world, but more personally, it was the first time I remember being aware of current events. It was after this point that I noticed how many car accidents I heard about, or robberies, or poverty. I began to grasp the fact that, while I live in a very safe place where I had enough food, clean water and access to education, not everyone did. I knew that bad things had happened in the past, like World War II and slavery because of stories and books I read, but September 2001 was the first time I remember realizing that bad things were still happening.

Seeing the building foundations, various missing posters, and memorials from the collapse, only served to reemphasize that awful things are still going on. It’s hard to know where to begin, what to think or do in light of these things. It’s overwhelming because I am just one person. No matter how many times I (or others) tell myself (me) that I can do anything, that I can change the world, I must still face the reality that I am still just one person, with the limitations of time, physical abilities and resources. I don’t have the financial means to solve world hunger. I don’t have the luxury of time and language to solve the deep-seated conflicts in the Middle Easter. But I do have something; what I do have is hope.

In X-Men: Days of Future Past, when a young Charles Xavier refuses to use his powers because it means feeling people’s pain, the older Charles Xavier tells his younger self: “it’s the greatest gift we have, to bear their pain without breaking, and it is borne from the most human power – hope”. Having hope doesn’t magically grant me more time, physical abilities or resources, but it does give me perspective. It reminds me that I’m not the only person who is saddened and outraged by what is going on around the world. It also helps me work in my sphere of influence, in my corner of the world, but I’m not alone in that; there are thousands, if not millions, of people working for good in their own spheres of influence. It’s by doing it this way, in a seemly disparate fashion, that we will change the world.

Developing my superhero name,

Lauren

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