I had a different post planned for this week. Then Las Vegas happened. We at The Freedom Story are stunned and grieving with the friends and families of the victims and wounded, with the first responders, law enforcement and medical professionals who answered the call of duty, with the extended community of everyone affected.
In the face of such tragedy, I’m going to refrain from talking policy, and instead talk about community. Communities are like tapestries. When one thread comes undone, how quickly the rest can become unraveled. Conversely, when the weave is strong, you can pull and pull, and it will not rip.
While the headline of what we do at The Freedom Story is fighting trafficking, the heart of what we do is in building family, and building community. Strengthening the common bonds that hold people together, strengthening the weave so it will not rip.
Here are some of the things we did recently:
– painted a wall mural, followed by photography art show and party
– a movie night, where hard-working families could come together for a meal and a show, to enjoy an activity together outside the house
– a cooking class, where our older students could add gyoza-making to their list of life skills
– a human rights training session on family law
– our girls’ leadership club concluded a segment on “building character,” including healthy choices and dealing with self-image
– a field trip to a local canal to learn how to make eco-friendly detergents
– continued counseling programs, home visits, and mentorship
It all looks like nothing more serious than people seriously having fun together, but there is meaning underneath the merriment.
Though lone gunmen and trafficking victims appear as different from each other as night and day, there is one common thread I see: isolation. Alienation. Whether it’s an isolation that allows a person to no longer see the humanity in other people, to view them as targets rather than sacred lives, or an isolation that makes people think there are no other options than self-destruction, or an isolation that leaves one vulnerable to predators, the common thread is a breakdown between the individual and the society around them.
There is suffering in this world, and I’m not going to pretend there are any simple solutions. Yet, while community cannot save us from all suffering, it does make the burden easier to bear. Friends, family, and neighbors can be our torch bearers, when we stray too far from a righteous path; the hands to reach out and steady us if we stumble or fall. Nourishment when we feel less strong, inspiration when we want to leap, and a soft place to land if we ever miss the mark.
If I have one prayer, it is this:
We are each other’s tapestry.
Let us remember that, and honor it.
Dr. Jade Keller is the Thailand Program Advisor and Editor for The Freedom Story (formerly The SOLD Project). After receiving a PhD in Political Science from UC Santa Barbara, she moved with her family to northern Thailand in 2010 to work in child trafficking prevention, education, and helping to raise awareness.