With one arm we will hold onto one another…
By Ken K.H. Leung
It’s an incredible feeling being at a FIRST Robotics competition. You never see such a large group of people trying so hard to make you feel so welcomed, so excited about what they believe in. Even when there are conflicts, they are always limited in the game, because everyone goes home knowing that some day they will be partners again, on or off the field.
I wish I can say the same thing for the world outside. FIRST is like a training wheel for life, but once you take it off, it’s different. It takes years to build something worthwhile, to build, ultimately, happiness. Yet we work so hard to make people around us unhappy, whether intentional or not. All it takes is one moment to forget who and where we are, one choice to put yourself above others… and silence.
As if all the challenges and limitations from our time isn’t enough, that beyond everything out of our control, we have to go out of our way to make others unhappy. For all the innovations from the 21st century, we are still incapable at breaching the gap between people, across color, status, appearances, and stereotypes; across superficial differences to truly understand one another. And for all of our access to information, we are uninformed and uninvolved at the adversities that weight upon others everyday, and unappreciative of times when we were equally powerless.
For instance, I didn’t know up until 1977, small pox was still a devastating disease that killed up to 50% of infected and hundreds of thousands of people each year. I didn’t know it was a seriously infectious disease that ravaged the human species as far back as 1350 BC and particularly during the 18th century, and that up until 31 years ago, we were still battling a disease that killed one in two people.
One in two people.
Happiness takes so much to build and so little to destroy. The balance between the two is so staggeringly disproportionate that it simply overwhelms you when you realize it. It’s not that we are unaware of sadness in this world; we just don’t realize what we have until we’ve lost them, and a lot of us don’t fully appreciate that.
Then, for all of our confidence, intelligence, and pride, we are unwilling to admit that we too are flawed, that we can’t fix everything, and when we can’t, that we too need support, understanding, and compassion; and we forgot that the ultimate measure of a person, to quote Dr. King, “is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience", but how he emerges from times of failures and regrets.
Yet, people continue to work day after day for others despite all the unhappiness in this world, asking no rewards, seeking no gratitude. Last week, I listened to my favorite radio station raised over one million dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society for the 28th years, even though no cure has been found. Everyday I watch candidates running to be president despite people constantly telling them they are not good enough. And I read about people protest against powerful governments, at home, and half way across the world, with no hope of making any serious changes in the near future.
It hurts when we see something happen and know for certain we could’ve done so much better. It hurts because with every advancement since the beginning of human civilization, there should be no one left hungry or helpless in this world. But there are, and there are many. So if one more dollar could’ve saved just one more life, isn’t that dollar worth fighting for? There will always be problems in this world. There will always be sadness in our lives. But if going through fire could’ve raised a thousand more dollars, isn’t it worth running into the fire?
But I chose to write and do all the other things because I believe in bigger forces, and bigger impacts. I believe if you have the right idea at the right time with the right people, you can lift the world with it. I also know I am spoiled and I expect a certain comfort in life. And I know some day I would like to raise a family. Which is why I’ve been searching for this one idea that I alone can recognize, this unique solution that will allow me to fix one problem in this world, and I would be able to work toward it for the rest of my life, and be able to look at myself in the mirror knowing I’ve done my part.
From the bottom of my heart, I know I am not alone in this. There are many things that separate us, but sadness is so much more fundamental, and we all share it one way or another. If we can understand that about each other, if through that we can learn to reach out just a little more, maybe there will be more room for tolerance, compassion, and patience, and just a little more room for one another in this already small world, made even smaller by our inability to communicate. And maybe, just maybe, there won’t be so much sadness surrounding us everyday.
I don’t know if we will ever be able to achieve this level of understanding, but miracles can happen.
The eradication of small pox was considered one of the greatest achievements of humanity. At the height of the cold war, when two super power threatened to annihilate each other with the most powerful weapon ever developed through technologies and innovations, people from the two countries set aside their differences and worked together toward a common goal, crossing over races, culture, and countries to defeat one of humanity’s greatest threat. With determinations and what represented the best of human spirit, that generation left us a safer, happier world to live in.
Miracles can happen again. There are more that unite us than divide us. If we can understand what’s truly important to us; if we can illuminate that common part of our humanity made invisible by skin-deep differences; and if we can use our diversity to fulfill every miracle to the fullest extend with the talents, courage, and wisdoms inherent in all of us, in one shape or another;
then maybe we will be able to leave behind a world where we won’t feel so lonely anymore; and maybe we can leave behind a world where we are all willing to extend our hands when help is asked of us. And maybe, just maybe, we can leave behind a place where everyone can come together, where no one gets left behind.
And with courage and all that represents the best of our humanity, we will hold onto one another with one arm, and with the other, touch the stars in the heavens.