Recently at Hathaway Brown, we had the privilege of hearing the story of author and activist Loung Ung and her family, a difficult recounting of genocide of millions of Cambodians who represented a potential threat to the power of the Khmer Rouge. From the age of 5, Loung witnessed abduction, execution, torture and annihilation of her family, friends and countrymen. Today the tragedy continues with the damage land mines continue to wreak, often on children. I cannot really even imagine the fear and despair that she experienced before the age of 12, and it’s remarkable to me that despite this, she has rallied to be a beacon of hope and change in the world. If you don’t know her story, I heartily recommend any of her books to you.
What is most powerful, though, was how she ended her talk. As most people in the audience probably did throughout her speech, I was struck by the privilege I have enjoyed in my life to live in relative safety and freedom, to be able to be myself, and to enjoy the pursuit of happiness while in others’ lives, survival is the highest hope. The entire concept of that kind of hardship is so hard for me to grasp, and it can be overwhelming to think about how to make a difference in the world.
Loung offered these thoughts. Of course, we can make a difference by learning about world events and supporting agents of change we are passionate about, such as aid groups or charities. But more importantly, by fully developing our abilities in what we are passionate about, we can be the example of the world at its best. Our lives give hope and inspiration to others. To offer this to her listeners instead of leaving them with the guilt of not having suffered was a gift and I have nothing but admiration for Loung’s bravery in giving that to others.
Photo: Robert Muller