No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main….
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the day when an atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima. Just as Veterans Day is a day to honor those who have fought in wars and Memorial Day is a day to honor those who have fought and died in wars, we might consider the anniversary of Hiroshima as a day to mourn and honor those victims of war who did not fight—the men, women, and children too often referred to as “collateral damage.” Fortunately, we have thus far avoided another Hiroshima, but we are still seeing far too many victims of warfare and violence throughout our world. From Libya and Syria to the streets of Baltimore, desperate people want nothing more than to find a safe place where they can live and raise their families in peace. Many are willing to risk their lives to find safety, and many are losing their lives, drowning as overloaded boats capsize or dying in the heat of the desert.
How do we welcome and care for those fleeing war and violence? As societies, our record is not terribly good. Self-interest and fear of the stranger, of the “other” too often create resistance to rather than welcome for refugees. As individuals, however, we do not need to be constrained by the societies we live in. A few of us might be brave enough to travel to war-torn countries or refugee camps to care for people there. Most of us can find smaller ways to help. We can lend financial support to organizations that are “on the ground” in areas of conflict, raise our voices in support of compassionate, welcoming policies toward refugees, cook a meal for families fleeing domestic violence at Sarah’s Hope. We can all do something.
Our yoga practice teaches us that we are all one. If that is so, there are no strangers. As the poet John Donne writes, we are not individual islands but all part of one big continent, where what happens to one of us affects us all. When we welcome the stranger we welcome a part of ourselves.
Join us tomorrow at 5 p.m. for a sadhana marking the anniversary of Hiroshima, Hill House (upstairs meeting room) Ruscombe Community Health Center.