It’s not in my place or interest to educate on this topic. Anyone with access to an Instagram account also has access to education, hence a lack of the latter is a personal choice. However, I do want to share a story of something that happened to me a few years back, to perhaps shed some light on the dire situation in Afghanistan, which has caught all of our attention over the last few days. You could say that it has got absolutely nothing to do with the dramatic scenes currently unfolding in a turmoil-ridden Kabul, and at the same time, you could say that it has got everything to do with it. At least as far as the perspective of an outsider goes. For someone who wants to understand, contribute and in any way make the tiniest of difference for these people in need, but at the same time can’t feel like this is all happening in a country far, far away, with a culture so vastly different and to a people with whom there’s little in common? Someone who might skip sharing content, who doesn’t make a donation, or take the time to fully comprehend the why’s and what for. They’re not bad people, they just feel detached. If I hadn’t lived abroad for so long, I probably would have felt like that.
It was a few years back, and I was operating a flight to somewhere in Pakistan. I can’t be too sure of exactly when it was, but I remember it was during the time when we all carried flag pins on our uniforms to showcase our nationalities. The flight was filled to the last seat, which, as all of my colleagues would know, means that it was a chock-a-block operation. The cabin was filled with seemingly identical-looking men, all wearing the same Shalwar kameez, the male dress to popular in the Indian subcontinent. The short flying time dictated the meal service, hence there was no time beyond giving out meals and collecting them shortly afterward. At one point, I’m bending down to reach inside the cart for some extra trays. In the corner of my eye, I notice how a man, sitting by the aisle, studies me curiously. He leans in, and I realize that he’s trying to get a closer look at the tiny flag pin on my chest. As I hand him his tray, this slenderly built man in a blue dress, with whom you’d think a Swedish boy from a small town would have nothing in common, says in broken Swedish: “You are from Sweden?”. I can still remember how I instantly felt how my eyes tearing up, and my spontaneous response was “I am! Are you as well?”. He went on to tell me how he, although originally from Pakistan, had immigrated to Sweden a few years back, and how he lived in a city not far from my hometown. Upon hearing all of this I remember how I wiped my eyes on my sleeve. We didn’t have the time to talk much more, but it struck how curious it is that one moment you’re flying over a country, surrounded by people who don’t look like you, and probably never felt any further away from where you’re from, and then, only an instant later, you feel like you’re home. It was a visceral before and after moment to experience that what truly matters and unites us the most, is seldom seen from the outside. As we get hinged on the idea that what you see is what you get, we overlook so much of what is important. And for that reason, I’ve thought about this moment many times throughout the years whenever I’ve needed to remind myself of that.
Over the last few days, I’ve read, listened to, and watched as much information as I’ve been able to process. I’ve donated money and told others to do the same. I’ve shared information and encouraged others to do the same. I’ve thought about the Afghan people. The women and the children, and their future. And none of it feels like a lot. Honestly, I don’t think it is a lot. But that’s precisely my point; it doesn’t have to be a lot. It’s all our tiny efforts that will make the entire difference in the end. It’s so easy to feel like you’re completely powerless to contribute any form of change to these people, yet it’s us who have all the power. Not everyone has access to education, but if you do, please inform yourself. Not everyone can afford to make donations, but if you do, please donate. Not everyone can have access to channels to influence others, but if you do, please keep sharing the information.
Perhaps this story doesn’t have anything to do with what’s going on in Afghanistan. Perhaps it has everything to do with it? If we agree that we all have more in common than we might think, then maybe a helping hand will be easier to extend, than if we think that we have nothing in common at all. Realizing and practicing that philosophy, is a lot.