Are we willing to mourn with those who mourn? Applying the Golden Rule.

Golden Rule, service, refugees

Originally published in the Salt Lake Tribune, April 14, 2017

“Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Buddhism “This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you.” Hinduism “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” Confucianism “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Christianity

Across many centuries, all major religions and virtually every culture, the “Golden Rule” or law of reciprocity holds that human beings should treat others as they would wish to be treated.

Empathy, or putting yourself in another’s shoes and understanding their experience from their perspective, literally “mourning with those who mourn” is another way of framing the Golden Rule.

What if their story were our story?

My new friend Melissa Dalton-Bradford, an ex-pat living in Germany was so moved by the refugees streaming into that country that she was compelled to act. She co-founded the non-profit “Their Story is Our Story” to share the human experiences of refugees.

My heart is filled to overflowing when I try to put myself in the stories of these refugees. What would I do if staying put was a death sentence? What if I could only afford to send one child to safety? What if I were playing the piano and the small girl seated next to me were taken out by a sniper’s bullet?

Would I not do everything I could to get my family to safety? I believe I would. Would I want to be welcomed and enveloped by a community who understood that we have far more in common in this human experience than we have different? I know I would.

The refugee crisis has been called the worst since World War II. Going just on numbers, it is WORSE than WWII, with now more than 65 million people displaced. That’s almost one in every one hundred people on the entire planet. Syria is a country of approximately 22 million people. Half of those, eleven million people, have been forced from their homes.

Headed to Greece

By the time this article is published, my husband and I will be on our way to Greece to serve in 3 refugee camps. We are going because we have a deep, heartfelt desire to help those in need. We are going because we feel drawn to that work. And, we are going because I had a conversation with an elected official who told me that refugee camps were actually pretty nice places. I’m not convinced that’s true, so I am going to find out for myself.

Lisa Campbell, an LDS American woman with 25 years of emergency management experience runs Oinofyta, a refugee camp about an hour outside of Athens. Her camp has between 500 and 800 refugees in it at any given time. They are living in an abandoned warehouse, with tiny rooms and cloth for doors. Well-run, but hardly what I would describe as a “nice place” to live, it is one of the camps we will be serving.

So many ways to serve

You don’t have to travel to Greece. There are so many ways to serve and so many people who need help – your help. You can collect diapers like my friend Alicia who gathered 8000 of them to send to refugees. You can make and distribute sandwiches with Soul Food USA for the homeless in downtown Salt Lake. You can sew reusable menstrual pads for Days for Girls. You can volunteer at your local food pantry. You can buy all or part of a cow through Heifer International. You can help support women’s empowerment centers through Global LifeVision. You can contribute to Operation Underground Railroad to help rescue victims of sex trafficking. You can take your family to build houses in Mexico. Or work to get clean water to villages in Africa or reservations in the American southwest. You can mentor someone through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or the YWCA or United Way. The list of possibilities is quite literally endless.

I remember hearing a speech O.U.R founder and CEO Tim Ballard gave a couple of years ago: “I have found my cause,” he said. “Now go find yours.” The world will be a better place when you do. We need you.

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