Reaching Out Our Hands to Help Others
Translated by the Dharma as Water Team
Under the same sky, at the same moment, there are many people in different countries suffering from disaster and hardship. Yet, there are also many diligent Bodhisattvas traveling back and forth amidst these suffering people to serve them and relieve them of suffering. In understanding this, we must always practice gratitude. We should be grateful for our own safety and wellbeing, and we should also be grateful for groups of people, these Bodhisattvas, who are creating blessings for the world.
Every day, we are able to diligently advance in our learning of the Dharma in peace; for this, we are very blessed. As we enjoy our blessings, we must not forget about the impermanence in this world; time passes with each second, so we must cherish the time we have, treasure our lives, and become people who are able to help others. We are blessed to be walking on the great path of Tzu Chi; while every country has its own unique way of life, Tzu Chi volunteers throughout the world all share the same ideals. They form aspirations and make vows to serve others with love. As they bring comfort to people suffering from poverty and illness, they awaken even greater love in their own hearts.
The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted industry and commerce, causing the poor to become poorer and leading to a surge in unemployment. Tzu Chi volunteers in every country have been providing financial assistance and donating personal protective equipment. Tzu Chi Indonesia volunteers have distributed daily necessities and food to 430,000 households. At the end of February, several entrepreneurs collaborated with Tzu Chi volunteers to gather together their power of love to provide poverty relief to over one million households.
Meanwhile, other wealthy people have turned New Year celebrations into charity events, transforming the festivities into opportunities to serve the poor. These people are so wise! They personally leave their bright and beautiful lives behind to venture into places where conditions are dark and filthy. In their lives, they thus experience both the joys of heaven and the suffering of hell, and in so doing, further awaken their potential for virtue. These people are the rich among the rich, cultivating both blessings and wisdom in parallel.
In Africa, our local Bodhisattva-volunteers have diligently advanced in their learning of the Dharma. Although they do not understand Mandarin Chinese or Tawianese, and can only hear my teachings after several layers of translation, they still understand what is in my heart, and they know that Tzu Chi volunteers must undertake Tzu Chi’s work to serve the world with compassion. Their lives are truly difficult, but they are extremely rich spiritually. Even if their families only have a small amount of food for themselves, they will clear out their pantries in order to help others. They are able to overcome their own hardships and help others who are less fortunate than themselves.
Helping the poor to turn their lives around is not something that only rich people can do; it is something we are all capable of. We must make it a regular practice to do good deeds and serve others. In this way, we will naturally put the Dharma into action.
In Tzu Chi, we all share the same direction, acting in unison. Although the practice of serving others is difficult, doing so brings us great joy, because with each good deed we do, we feel that we have also contributed. We cannot accomplish these good deeds on our own. We need to work together and leverage each other’s strengths to make them possible.
When we awaken the goodness in people’s hearts, we are teaching lessons of love. We must use all kinds of methods to lead people to do good deeds and sustain their contributions of money and energy so that people needing support will have someone to take care of them. When we all take care of and help one another, society will naturally become harmonious and prosperous. When we all reach out our hands to benefit others, we will be able to create a world full of blessings. Our love will be inexhaustible, our strength will be limitless, and our blessings will be infinite.
The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs has currently placed Haiti at the most critical level in their Travel Advisories ranking, “Red: Do Not Travel,” and describes the risks: “Violent crime, such as armed robbery and carjacking, is common. Kidnapping is wide-spread. […] Demonstrations, tire burning, and roadblocks are frequent, unpredictable, and can turn violent.” Notwithstanding the pandemic’s additional bearing down on the country’s economy, Haitians were already struggling in extreme poverty before this global crisis emerged. It appears that people are desperate, and resorting to violence may be their last resort in terms of sheer survival.
“[Due to] the political, economic, and social turmoil in Haiti, it is always difficult for us to achieve something in Haiti,” James Chen, head of Tzu Chi USA’s aid missions in Haiti, points out. Still, while Tzu Chi volunteers may have been ready to weather today’s escalated perils, they can’t even reach the country at the moment. “The Haitian government stopped commercial passenger flights […] which prevents us from entering Haiti,” James reveals. Yet, as the love and care must go on, the team is successfully circumventing the problem through monthly virtual meetings to manage ongoing programs and the steadfast strides of Tzu Chi’s cherished local partners on the ground in Haiti. Father Zucchi Ange Olibrice, Executive Director of Oeuvre des Petites Écoles de Père Bohnen (OPEPB), who has been at the forefront of Tzu Chi’s aid in Haiti for years, holds a central role and is finding ways around the difficulties of distribution during the pandemic. When Multi-Grain Powder shipped from Tzu Chi’s global headquarters in Taiwan arrived, Father Zucchi had his concerns. A large portion of the supply was for single-parent families in Cité Soleil and La Saline, two major slums in Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince. However, the situation in those communities had deteriorated significantly. Nonetheless, he went forward with the plan, recruiting local volunteers to bring the food supplement to the intended recipients securely. Additionally, the volunteers delivered the powder in an ingeniously tasty form: Cookies baked by OPEPB school staff and faculty. Father Zucchi remembers fondly how the tradition began in 2018, when, “We decided to make all the grain powders into nutritious cookies and provide them to the people in need in the slums and the students in slum schools.”