Show, don’t tell!

I walk through the dry hills
I hold the little girl’s hand
I wrestle the wildfire
I share the pain
Because if not I, who?
If not now, when?

In 2008-09 I served six months as a civilian specialist in a European Union non-military undertaking in Kabul. When I came home, I summarized my experiences in the six lines above. Some years have passed, but the memories of that war-torn country still burn bright.

People have many times asked me why I, a well-established middle-aged professional, chose to accept something as hazardous and arduous as that assignment.

When I look at my kids growing up in our quiet corner of the world, it hurts to know that such childhoods are a privilege enjoyed by far too few. The American writer Chaim Potok spoke of “sacred discontent”, i.e. the emotion that propels the common citizen to stand up against injustices by putting himself on the line: “This just can’t go on.” I want to teach my kids the difference between what is important in life and what is fluff. And I can only do that by walking the walk.

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