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Living in Action

March 13, 2012 by anisa

Today on my walk into work, I passed by a woman who was collecting water from a street gutter, and was using it to wash her face, and then I watched as she proceeded to fill her water bottle and drink from it. I looked down into this gutter, and I couldn’t imagine dipping my hand into this source, let alone drinking from it. It was one of those moments where I felt utterly helpless, and extremely aware that there was very little I could do to alleviate the disparities between us. I don’t know what it feels like to be so thirsty that I would drink from that, and I probably never will.  I could feel my heart sinking and my mind racing – should I give her my water bottle – or the extra Luna bar in my bag?  What else could I rummage for? But what would that really accomplish? Would I feel good for 2 minutes and then leave this woman with a small token from my plentiful life? Can we not to better?  Can we (as humanity) make it such that this woman would never have to drink from a water source like that? I’ve believed with all my heart that it’s possible, but some days, like today, I am left convincing myself to have faith.


The issue of human rights has come up a lot recently – most likely in part due to the momentum of the Kony campaign. I think no matter where you stand on the Kony issue, it’s incredible to see the power of social media, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the discourses that have come up as a result. A couple friends asked me what my position was on the situation – I’ll be honest, every country I’ve traveled through has their own story of loss and injustice, and many of these countries are still suffering from the selfish acts of dishonest leaders. The story of Kony’s regime is both heartbreaking and infuriating, but that said, it is also very complex, and it is one of many unsung stories of injustice –  in Uganda, as well as across this continent. So I guess my position is that I’m glad it’s getting people to talk – and hopefully the conversations don’t end after the FB hype does.


When you read about the history of conflicts (particularly in Africa), they are never one-sided. They’re almost always in response to some equally unjust and inhumane act or regime, or they have resulted from some kind of foreign disruption or intervention (colonization, segregation, ethnic cleansing). This doesn’t discredit that Kony needs to be brought to justice – but what is this campaign ultimately accomplishing? Can we not do more?  I’m not against using the media to bring attention to human rights issues – what I’m suggesting is, we aren’t doing all that we can do. It’s not enough to go through the motions – it’s not enough to take one bad man out of power and for one regime to change hands to another, without addressing any of the real issues facing the population. The real issues are not political, they are social. They are about food, water, education, health, and happiness.


If we’re talking about bringing justice to a country like Uganda, bring those things.


These are no easy tasks, and I don’t mean to suggest that I have any of the answers. I don’t. I’m just learning and taking action in the ways I believe are right. The truth is – the kind of attitude that creates real change is not something that can happen with one campaign, or one year spent living in Africa. It’s a way of life, lived all the time, in any corner of the globe. I feel really fortunate that I’ve been surrounded by people – both here and back at home – who also believe in living a life of action. With their jobs and businesses, with their communities, and with each other.  Hearing about the great work my community of peers and friends are doing – whether they’ve chosen to stay at home and raise children, or run businesses, or design spaces, or write, or code – and seeing the innovation that results from this kind of action – this inspires me.


You all create. You all contribute. You are living in action.


So when I have moments like the one I had this morning, I just think about the possibility that comes from all of us, all over the world, hustling, doing what we do best. Someday, I am certain, from all these actions, solutions will arise. Real ones. Not the small tokens like my Luna bar. Not the grand gestures, like a political documentary. Just small actions that come together to make things a little bit better. I know this perspective may seem rose-colored given the harsh realities of these situations. My reality is entirely based on my own experience, which much of the time leaves me heavy hearted. But for as many heavy-hearted days, I have also experienced moments where I’ve seen the transformative power of kindness. I believe in these moments.


And I chose to live in the belief that with action, all things are possible.



  1. alixrose says:

    People forget that any action small or large has more impact then no action at all. Thank you for sharing your experience and your thoughts. <3

  2. Erica says:

    After a hard week at work, you lift me up. It is always good to be reminded of the bigger picture. xx

  3. Jeanna says:

    WOW – so well said! I have been really disappointed about all the naysaying and negativity around KONY 12… love hearing your insight.

  4. Everett Tawney says:

    Hi Anisa,
    I found your blog and it sounds like an amazing time for you. I think about you and of course worry about your safety and hope you are staying safe! You write beautifully and I’m enjoying going back and reading previous posts.
    Stay safe and take care,

  5. “The real issues are not political, they are social. ”

    Right you are!

    It wouldn’t solve everything, but it would alleviate many issues and make real solutions possible if ppl treated ppl better.

    If I might, a point to ponder: Is helping others with a favor well within our means, such as providing clean water or some simple nutrition, about helping others feel better from receiving the favor or about making ourselves feel better for doing the favor?

    Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgiving.

  6. Mira says:

    Hey lady, isn’t it about time for another post??

    Miss you

  7. Soheyla says:

    Doing what we each do every day, gets us stuck in our own little world. Since, we use our experiences to create our reality, sharing with each our diverse experiences helps us expand and widen ours understanding of the world, our world. Thank you Anisa.

  8. irfaan says:

    Hey.. i just randomly came across your blog. truely inspired article and the work your doing, wish you the best. I am living in Kenya and our life is too distracted with the hustle and bustle of work, we forget to look around us and see the big picture of reality.

    take care where ever you are . IK

  9. adobe says:

    Great article.

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