I remember sitting on a bus from Seoul to Chuncheon while a couple sat in front of me eating their recently prepared breakfast sandwiches. Warm cheese oozed from the bagel. I remember the Buddhist from Australia who owned fruit farms and tossed jokes and sarcasm into the air in my direction for being an American. He sat across from me at Highlands Coffee. I remember the pain in my fingertips as I walked across the Manhattan Bridge at 10pm one evening and the cold gripped my hands from a lack of warmth and companionship. My thoughts, my feelings, numb.
It’s a new year and my Happy New Years greeting and well-wishes are late. Each day that passes in January is a reminder of my humanity – my ability to address social change and make contributions to society that have a long-term impact. To do something. I’ve been reflecting a lot, thinking back to a year ago and the time and space in which I inhabited. A new year can cause this to happen. Even a weekend. It causes nostalgia, joy, excitement, readiness, frustration. It’s caused me to miss and appreciate my daily lunch at my Korean school cafeteria for 12 months. To recall how I planned to be in Thailand for the next four months but am not. To remind myself that tomorrow’s a new day and anything, ANYTHING, is possible. Oh, but to go back to my Korean lunch? I never could get enough kimchi. Mmh.
Last week I visited the International Rescue Committee – the IRC. A humanitarian and aid organization bringing relief and help to conflict-affected communities. Two years ago I started volunteering in their Saturday program that offered academic assistance to resettled refugee youth. The experience was rewarding that solidified my desire to help this population and allowed me to form friendships that still endure. One of them occurs with George, a student I saw at last week’s visit to the IRC. In fact, he was the reason I went. Now entering his second semester at a college in the northeast, he recently contacted me about his film screening, Out of the Fire. Produced by Reel-Lives (“Filmmaking education for marginalized youth“) with himself as the director, George’s 16 minute screening foretold a tale that many of us are far removed from – on a continent riddled by political relationships and economic and environmental conflict, in a country that houses one of the UN’s most expensive peacekeeping operations. Liberia’s 14 year civil war brought the country out of unrest and to this day, concerted strides toward a more stable, transparent society continue.
The movie follows George from his departure in Liberia on his journey to the US. Having left Liberia when he was a child, George has now spent a majority of his life in America and instead of living as a victim in the aftermath of crisis, he is a witness to the challenges that continue to exist in a country that gained its independence in 1847. Even as witnesses we can still be cognizant to what occurs 4,000 miles away and invested in efforts that bring relief. George’s story tells that tale. He remembers his journey to Staten Island, his journey to a new beginning and is now on a journey to help others.
My advice? Watch it. Here. Watch it knowing you’ll be moved, humbled and filled with hope. Watch it knowing it’ll remain in your memory and it’ll be something you remember. Stories are powerful tools and used in an appropriate way, can truly move one to smile, act, and create a domino-effect of in-kind gestures. Much of life can be told from alternative perspectives and depending on who’s talking and who’s listening, an exchange of words can impact your life in ways that create meaning. While we all remember things differently and aspire for various realities, we move forward in life with the ability to remember, and to dream for a better tomorrow. What we do remember and choose to share can be a composite of good and bad, as what we do with the information leads to fuller lives…stronger communities…better programs…people feeling supported.
So it’s a new year, how do you choose to remember it?
*The public screening for this film will occur in March in NYC*