The Art of Being Human

Volunteers working on hundreds of Amazon donations received at Austin Pets Alive.

Volunteers working on hundreds of Amazon donations received at Austin Pets Alive.

We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery, we need humanity. More than cleverness, we need kindness and gentleness.
— Charlie Chaplan

This month has been a particularly difficult one. I've spent a good portion of it feeling outraged, sorrowful, hurt, disappointed, and confused. The events of the last few weeks beginning in Charlottesville and what played out on the national stage to the recent devastation from Hurricane Harvey have weighed heavily. The emotional, physical, mental and spiritual trauma of injustice and displacement leave its mark. To belittle and strip humans of their inherent dignity and worth is wrong. It's beyond wrong, it's evil. To lose one's home and sense of safety is distressing and overwhelming. It's traumatizing. 

To belittle and strip humans of their inherent dignity and worth is wrong. It’s beyond wrong, it’s evil.

To lose one’s home and sense of safety is distressing and overwhelming. It’s traumatizing.

As a counselor, I face stories of evil and trauma often. It's not easy for me but why I do what I do, how I can do what I do, is because of what my clients bring. Their resilience, their courage, their willingness to fight the lies and fight for restoration to find their voice, their freedom, their meaning is something to behold. I often don't feel worthy of this work but am greatly aware of its privilege. My clients show me what it is to be human in all its beauty, glory, sacrifice and triumph. 

My clients show me what it is to be human in all its beauty, glory, sacrifice, and triumph.

Earlier this week, I witnessed on a larger scale what it means to be human. My city and fellow Texans fulfilling the command to love one's neighbor. I feel inspired, encouraged, and amazed by seeing others seek to restore and speak into sorrow through whatever means possible. Yesterday, my sister and I arrived at Austin Pets Alive to see scores of volunteers organizing the hundreds of donated boxes that carried much-needed supplies to care for the 300+ animals that needed shelter

We went to Costco and you could feel it in the air: this powerful sense of taking up the cause because our fellow humans, though strangers to us, need us. So there I am in Costco inspired by the carts filled with bulk items waiting to be driven across cities along the coast just because that's what it means to participate in this being human. It means caring about others' misfortune and their plight. It means taking up the banner on their behalf. And while there are many who would seek to destroy, there are many more who make it their mission to build up. 

What it means to be human: caring about others’ misfortune and their plight, taking up the banner on their behalf.

And while there are many who would seek to destroy, there are many more who make it their mission to build up.

I am well aware that often times we rise to the challenge when we see humanity threatened and then easily return to states of selfish preoccupation. I'm well aware that across this country and countries over, there is horror occurring with little being done. I'm well aware that this post doesn't change the hate that was spoken (still spoken) and experienced or that highlighting local acts of kindness doesn't change that there is real suffering. This post isn't meant to minimize the pain.

In moments like this, when we're in crisis, I think it necessary to see what human agency is capable of (both for harm and for blessing). It's necessary that when we feel helpless and powerless to consider what is within our personal, social and cultural jurisdiction and ask what one's contribution is. How can your voice reflect what it means to be human and what action will it lead you towards?

I am confident goodness has the final say. So let us be a people and community that uses our words for this important conversation. 

{if you have not yet been able to contribute for Hurricane Harvey relief, please take some time to consider how you might be able to donate. Even looking around your pantry and giving your non-perishable food items will go a long way! I've included links above for ways you can help.}

Tiffany Dang

Tiffany Dang, LPC, Austin, TX