I love a viral video. They make me laugh and are easy to watch. Especially when it’s rabbits in a cup:
Or a rat carrying a pizza down subway stairs:
These videos are pretty great—they’re fun and easy in the midst of daily chaos. Less easy to watch is the nightly news. Stories of violence, war, global threats. Or stories of horrific child abuse. That’s not easy.
I work for IJM, so I encounter hard stuff all the time. Sometimes, it feels too much. Sometimes, I want drown it out and watch something that makes me laugh. And on occasion, this can be right. Social workers might call it self-care. Some people take a bubble bath or exercise, and some watch a fun video. Po-tay-to/po-tah-to.
The danger zone for all of us is when we know more about the world of viral videos, snap content, and popcorn news than the daily lived experience of our neighbours around the world. It’s not reality, though it is easier.
I recently came across this excerpt from a speech entitled "The Perils of Indifference” by Elie Wiesel, a survivor of a WW2 concentration camp:
"Of course, indifference can be tempting -- more than that, seductive. It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid such rude interruptions to our work, our dreams, our hopes. It is, after all, awkward, troublesome, to be involved in another person's pain and despair. Yet, for the person who is indifferent, his or her neighbour are of no consequence. And, therefore, their lives are meaningless. Their hidden or even visible anguish is of no interest. Indifference reduces the other to an abstraction.”
How does indifference sneak in? Does anyone ever plan to be indifferent to her neighbour?
I think indifference is insidious. It sneaks in, unsuspiciously. I’d guess that indifference is rarely a conscious choice. Being too busy could make me indifferent. Being overwhelmed by my own challenges could make me indifferent. The daily grind of life could make me indifferent. Total and complete distraction from the world when the cacophony of my own life is all-consuming could make me indifferent. And it just happens.
Feeling the anguish of the world all the time is unreasonable to request of anyone. We are meant to have joy and peace. Laughter and life. Being continuously engaged in the pain of life is like feeling the clothes you wear at all times. You’d implode from the constant stimulus.
I recently travelled to Southeast Asia with my husband. If you want to talk about sensory overload, go to a city that has more people in it than the entire population of Canada. There are people everywhere. Hard stuff is everywhere.
There is a middle ground between seductive indifference and an overwhelming pain that renders you immobile. Ask for a heart of love that fuels you. Ask for an outpouring of love that can sustain you without burning you out. And then, share that love with the world. Share it in places of brokenness and pain, but also in places of celebration and joy.
Open your heart. Then start to operate out of that with love for others.
If you’re looking for a specific action you can take today, consider downloading a Travel Brave
kit from our website. If you’re travelling overseas and suspect a child is being sexually exploited, this kit will help you know the warning signs and tell you how to report the crime.
This blog post is part three of a series to inform readers about Travel Brave, an initiative created by IJM Canada to help raise awareness about child sex tourism, empower Canadians to report the crime, increase citizen reporting of suspected child sex tourists, and better protect children everywhere.