Life or death, right or wrong — there are choices we make for ourselves and then there are those that fate serves up on a no-win situation platter. This was the dilemma of Wardo Mohamud Yusuf. She had been walking for two weeks with her 1-year-old daughter on her back and her 4-year-old son alongside her when the boy’s body gave out and he collapsed. In order to ensure the survival of her remaining children, the 29-year-old Somali mother “decided to leave him behind to his God on the road.”
As Somali parents struggle to escape drought and famine and bring their young to safety, a minor technicality has crept in the back door and stolen the lives of more than 29,000 Somali children. Up until about a week ago, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working in parts of Somalia controlled by terrorist group, Al-Shabaab potentially faced execution for providing aid to avoid funds falling into the wrong hands. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has since agreed to grant humanitarian groups the appropriate licenses, so they can begin their hunger resolution efforts. While the United States scurries to work out the details, the lives of nearly 3 million Somalis swing aimlessly in the balance.
The notion of waiting for something or someone to come to our rescue, even our “beloved” government, has grown stale, not to mention dangerous. From school lottery systems, to health care reform, to the looming economic crisis, we all seem to be waiting for that magical moment when someone will arrive on the proverbial “white horse” and save us from our woes. But perhaps there in lies the problem: We keep waiting for someone else to step up and take the lead. Instead, we must collectively rise amid the backdrop of misery and social injustice and plunge into action.
Obama hinted at the need for a united effort in his 2011 State of the Union Address, and some have accepted the challenge. I wrote a story for the East Meadow Herald earlier this year about 12-year-old Rachel Polansky, who assembled a team of family members, friends and neighbors to raise money to increase access to automated external defibrillators on youth athletic fields. Not too long ago, I came across a woman at a fundraising seminar, who handed out condoms in her community to promote safe sex. However, I was most inspired by a 17-year-old student at Oceanside High School I interviewed. While other teens were out partying or playing video games, she spent her time tutoring peers, teaching young girls self-esteem, and serving food at the local soup kitchen in her efforts to strengthen the Hispanic community.
These three examples demonstrate how each of us can start where we are and use the resources we have at our fingertips to make a difference. If each of us steps up for the other, a resolution can’t be far behind.