Recently someone told me about the work of Alberto Cairo who runs the orthopedic clinic for the Red Cross in Kabul. An Italian lawyer turned physiotherapist, he’s been working in this job for over 20 years, all through the Mujahadeen and Taliban years, and in that time they’ve provided and fitted more than 90,000 prostheses (artificial body parts) for free. The staff are nearly all disabled Afghans.
What I found most moving though was him saying, “If you can improve the life of a person, it gives you so much joy. If I had to compare what I give to what I get, I get back much more than I give.”
Gain and loss is what our materialistic society is about. Maximise gain; reduce loss. But does this translate to receiving and giving? Clearly not in Alberto Cairo’s case.
For ourselves, we’ve suffered great trauma and loss, but it hasn’t all been one way at all. We’re both stronger people – we have a closer relationship because we’ve needed to rely on each other. I’m much more sensitive to my emotions than I was. We’re both more sensitive to others’ needs because we’ve seen first hand how grateful you are for other people’s support when you need it.
We’ve made new strong friendships. I’m less concerned with squirreling money away because my values have been modified by the death of my daughter. We’ve received great satisfaction from changing some desperate situations in Afghanistan for the better.
I knew that there were things in my life that were unsatisfactory – as there still are. But the reality for me has been that raw experience is something which changes your outlook. Reading it in books etc just doesn’t do it, most of the time.