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Drop of the Ocean

Miss the previous update about my work at the Remera Mbogo School? Read it here.

When, sitting before you, are 12 young adults who all survived the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who all lost parents and many family members to it, where one bears a large scar on her neck from being attacked, what do you say?

What can you say?

Such was my vantage point when introducing a therapeutic program I would be facilitating with these students over the coming weeks.

I wasn’t afraid, just a bit shy. Nor was I concerned about saying the right thing. I did what I always do: I let the moment guide me.

Generally, in life, it’s a good strategy. It’s especially beneficial, if not necessary, in extreme situations as this because you should not be going in with too many preconceived notions about what to do or how to be.

Though I haven’t heard the personal testimony from what these 12 experienced during the genocide, I’ve heard it from others, and the stories all share similarities. Witnessing parents murdered at a young age. Losing hundreds of family members. Being personally brutalized. Losing limbs. Having to fend for survival. And 18 years later, still experiencing symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that makes learning in school a difficult task.

It’s hard to believe these students lived through such things when you see their smiling faces and joyful, playful demeanor. Though the pain they carry became apparent shortly after I began speaking—one burst into tears and had to leave the room.

Choosing to Live Well

My program will entail providing individual, 1-hour Jin Shin Jyutsu treatments, as well as some work as a group. Given the short time we have together (about 4 weeks), I was clear that total healing was not the goal.

What is the goal is giving each a small taste, if possible, that it is OK to live well and have a good life free of suffering. Having a brief peek at this possibility is enough for somebody to set a course in that direction on their own.

As Sathya Sai Baba said, “One drop of seawater is enough to know the taste of the entire ocean.”

In the case of tragic loss, especially the loss of parents, a feeling of, "I should not have a good life" can develop—it’s a kind of loyalty, an internal oath we make.

We feel not living well honors those dear to us who did not survive and helps to right the wrong of what happened. When, in fact, the reverse is truth, and is what I explained to these courageous youngsters.

They survived, and the best way to honor their loss and the miracle of surviving is to choose to live well. Would you say this to somebody in the days after experiencing something catastrophic? Definitely not.

However, 18 years later, when some emotional stability has returned and with distance from the event, it is a healthy concept to introduce. I could tell it was well received, as my English worked its way in translation to the local language.

So far, we’ve completed the first week of one-on-one Jin Shin Jyutsu treatments. A few of the students did drop out of the program, while others have taken their place. Is there some confusion and uncertainty about what we are doing together? Yes.

What I find reassuring is that despite this uncertainty I sense, each student is coming on time for their treatment and has committed to going through the entire process.

To give you an idea of the kind of group work we’ll do, I’ve purchased some basic art supplies and will ask everybody to think about and draw what living well means to them. Here’s the supplies, some time, now let your heart do the talking. Then we can all share about what we came up with.

I will definitely post what they create later—I have a feeling it’s going to be inspiring for all of us to see.

Continue to the next update about my work at the Remera Mbogo School.