Here we emphasize the importance of maintaining compassion, avoiding the spread of unverified information, and finding ways to contribute positively, even in times of crisis. It's a powerful reminder to focus on hope and gratitude amid the challenges of living in a world that often sees conflict.
Given the current state of affairs worldwide, I've come to a simple conclusion: If, in the fight against terrorism, we allow fear, hatred, and resentment to fill our hearts, then those who use terror to dominate, whether they're just around the corner or thousands of miles away, will have triumphed.
My entire life has unfolded in the midst of war. Born in Colombia, South America, in 1955, I entered the world amid "La Violencia," a period that concluded in 1958. My family bore witness to horrifying events during those times, experiences that are challenging to put into words.
Let's rewind a bit: By 1950, the Korean War had ended, and just five years earlier, in September 1945, World War II had concluded. In 1958, the Vietnam War began, lasting until 1975.
Fast forward, and by October 1962, the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded. Only between the 20th and 21st centuries have we seen numerous wars.
Since then, conflict has been a constant. As I write this, we're witnessing the Russian invasion of Ukraine since 2022, and Israel has just initiated war against the Hamas group.
Going back to the days of "La Violencia" in Colombia, my family lived in Urrao, my birthplace. During those times, warplanes flew over our town several times, heading to bomb nearby guerrilla positions. Despite targeting our "enemies," my mom would fall to her knees, tears streaming, praying for those about to face death. "They have mothers, fathers, and children. They are human beings too," my mom would lament.
As you can see, I grew up in a war-torn environment, yet in a compassionate family. I decided never to lose my sensitivity and compassion for those who suffer, regardless of who they are.
I've been living in the United States for many years now. I spent some time back in Colombia, working in two hospitals. In Bucaramanga, I tended to war victims. It's not pleasant to witness what an anti-personnel mine does to a human body. In Medellín, I saw patients victimized by urban violence and gang wars. All of this reaffirms what I mentioned earlier: I've lived my entire life in times of war.
With the Israel war, which somehow feels closer, I've observed a significant increase in stress levels among many of my patients. "What do you do with this sense of helplessness?" someone asked me. Another person wondered how to help those suffering from a distance.
I've decided not to pass judgment in this writing, nor expose my beliefs regarding when war might be justified. I refer to the question: What would have happened if the United States, Great Britain, France, and Russia hadn't waged war against Hitler?
Even without conventional war, many countries globally face constant political and economic uncertainty, exploited by some who believe in intimidation and aggression to impose their ideologies.
Reflecting on all this, I've distilled some ideas that I hope can be of help:
When listening to the news, try to stay calm and avoid spreading unverified information or rumors. In moments of crisis, it's easy to let emotions take over and share inaccurate information that can cause panic. Always try to verify information before sharing it.
Listen to others and try to understand their perspectives. In times of crisis, it's easy to fall into polarization and binary thinking. Judging and categorizing people as good or bad doesn't help anyone. It sickens the soul and the body. Defending oneself against those who act maliciously is one thing; allowing the dirty and ugly to triumph in our hearts is another. Try to keep an open mind and listen to others' perspectives, even if you don't agree with them.
If you're a believer, let's pray for all the actors in the conflict. Pray for decision-makers to be wise. Pray for those suffering on both sides of the conflict to have the strength and resilience to endure it all and, when everything has calmed down, to continue with their lives.
Let's see if we can do something tangible for those who are suffering. It's not about expressing anger in the streets; it's about doing something effective, like sending aid when possible. We can look for ways to support people fighting for peace and justice worldwide. There are charities working to promote peace and justice globally. Consider making a donation or joining a local organization to make a difference.
When we can't act globally to help, we can act locally. Help those around you using your skills and knowledge. Channel your altruistic feelings by volunteering or in any way that allows you to express your desire to help. Perhaps a good way to help is to lovingly listen to those who are very scared and need to vent their distress.
Let's maintain an attitude of gratitude for what we have right now. Whether it's peace or some resources, gratitude is a powerful attitude that can help you maintain a positive perspective in difficult times. Thanking for what you have, even in the midst of adversity, can help you find inner peace.
Let's value and make the most of moments with our loved ones to express our love. Valuing the time you spend with your loved ones is crucial. In times of crisis, it's easy to lose sight of what truly matters in life. Taking the time to express love and appreciation for those around you can help you maintain a healthy perspective.
We must continue working with dedication. Bills need to be paid, rent or mortgage needs to be covered, and groceries need to be bought. Moreover, working is therapeutic. Continuing to work with dedication is important because it helps you maintain a sense of purpose and meaning in your life.
I suggest we focus on our hopes, not our fears. Several times a day, when the mind drifts towards uncertainty and unease, let's concentrate our attention on the present moment to cherish and savor it. Then bring to your heart your aspirations and everything you aspire to achieve for yourself and your loved ones. Don't give in to fear. Focusing on hopes rather than fears is a powerful way to maintain a positive perspective in difficult times. Instead of worrying about what could go wrong, try to focus on what could go right.
I invite you to remember that humanity always finds peace and rebuilds everything. Yes, even after the next conflict. But let's not lose sight of the good moments. Life brings suffering, but life is not only suffering. There is also tenderness, kindness, and we have good moments to recognize and cherish. Remembering that humanity always finds peace and rebuilds everything is a powerful way to maintain hope in difficult times. Although it may seem dark now, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I know, it sounds like a cliché, but I ask you to go along with it.
Well, it seems we'll always live in times of war. I wonder, how will we manage our moods, actions, and conversations?
As I said at the beginning: If, in the fight against terrorism, we allow fear, hatred, and resentment to fill our hearts, then those who use terror to dominate, whether they're just around the corner or thousands of miles away, will have triumphed.
These lyrics penned by Fito Páez and sung by Mercedes Sosa echo in my heart: "Who said everything is lost? I come to offer my heart."
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