Originally posted on April 25, 2015…
Terrible news this morning with a massive earthquake (approx. 7.9 on the Richter scale) in Nepal, destroying buildings, homes, killing and injuring thousands of people in and around Kathmandu, and causing avalanches in the Himalayas, killing hikers there. They’ve had over 15 aftershocks just today of over 5.0 on the Richter scale.
Just last night our monthly writers group met at my house. The format we use, “Writing From the Soul”, was developed by the wonderful Jane Brunette, an American who lives much of the time in Nepal. Though I’ve never been to Nepal, I have a deep sense of connection for several reasons. A friend of mine’s brother lived in Kathmandu with his wife and three small children. I met them many years ago when they were visiting here. On their way back home to Kathmandu, they were killed in a plane accident. Nepal doesn’t have an advanced air traffic control system, but has lots of cloudy weather and mountains. In stormy weather and poor visibility, their plane flew into a mountain.
Another connection I feel with Nepal is through the work of Olga Murray and her Nepal Youth Foundation. Olga’s built and staffed homes, schools, and hospital, and saved tens of thousands of children. I first learned of Nepal Youth Foundation more than ten years ago and have supported it ever since.
Another American, an extraordinary young woman named Maggie Doyne, perhaps a saint, at the very least, a wise being, has also done amazing work in Nepal, creating the Kopila Valley Children’s School and home for orphaned and impoverished children. Maggie started doing this work when she was 18. She’s now in her mid-20s.
This kind of compassion in action totally knocks me out. I first heard the term Compassion in Action from Ram Dass in the early 90s. Ram Dass co-founded the Seva Foundation in 1978 along with by Dr. Larry Brilliant, Wavy Gravy, and others. Seva is best known for its work restoring eyesight to over 3 million blind people suffering cataract blindness in Nepal and other countries. (interesting note of interconnectedness: Steve Jobs was an early Seva advisor, and gave the first significant cash donation as well as an Apple II to enter and analyze eye care survey results in the original Nepal program.) The symbol for SEVA (the image below) is the same one you find on stupas all over Nepal.
My friend Mary Watson just returned from a trip to Nepal. Last night she brought a gift, a small ceramic disc painted with the traditional “Buddha’s eyes”, the symbol used by Seva, a symbol so prevalent throughout Nepal that it has become symbolic of Nepal itself.
While in Nepal, Mary visited the place that Olga Murray created, saw the work that was being done, saw the healthy and happy children. I don’t know if Olga Murray, Maggie Doyne, and all the children under their care are ok, or if Jane Brunette is ok. I don’t know if the friends Mary Watson made there are ok. I’m thinking about all of them today. I’m also worried for my friend Montserrat’s stepdaughter, who lives there. And then of course there are ALL the people living there.
This morning I was feeling so sorry for the people of Nepal. Then I remembered I am sitting in San Francisco, on our own serious earthquake fault, ready to shift at any moment. Mother Earth is alive and, while not as well as she could be, she’s active and moving. What happened in Nepal today Will happen here. It will be different, but it will be huge in its own way. We’re told we can count on this. I’m reminded of our interconnectedness, our fragility, our precarious perch in this life, no matter who we are, where we are.
At this sweet 29th St. cafe where I’m sitting this morning sipping Earl Grey tea with soy milk, writing on my lap top, I’m feeling my good fortune, which today is tempered by my sense of interconnectedness with the people of Nepal. There’s a guy at the next table. He’s wearing a red t-shirt with big white block letters that says STANFORD ENGINEERING. He’s got his headphones on and he’s plugged into his computer. He’s young, tall, blue-eyed, blonde, handsome, white. He looks strong and healthy. I noticed myself wanting to slap-dash concoct a whole made-up story about his privilege and his life, and of course it would be connected to the changing, gentrifying nature of the Mission District in San Francisco. My made-up story might be right, but I don’t know him and what his suffering might be. I do know that somehow we are interconnected. He has a mother who loves him too, at least I hope she does. Maybe someday he’ll go to Nepal and help engineer some better construction techniques, or help build a state-of-the-art air control tower. You never know. Everyone has their own struggle and their own contribution to make. Somehow we have to hold tragedy and hope at the same time. Hopefully we can let go of habitually creating the “other” and instead feel our interconnectedness and put our compassion into action.
The Nepal Youth Foundation, Maggie Doyne’s Kopila Valley Children’s School and Home, and Seva would all be good places to offer a contribution to the healing that will be needed in Nepal. (if the links don’t work, all three are easy to google.) Thinking of Nepal… and all of us…