By Cathy Johnston, UK
Deliberately flying towards a war zone would appear, on the face of it, to be a completely insane, grown-up choice to make. For some people, yes, but not, however, for the people connected to the ACT Foundation.
Driven by a supreme desire to serve others, these selfless people shine as a beacon of bright light into the darkest of human corners, setting examples for us all to follow. Totally unafraid and stridently stepping forward over the borders into the terrified and desolate arms of those Mothers and children who’ve fled from the bombs and rubble.
More than 7 million displaced Ukrainian people, to date, are living in makeshift homes as far away from the noise of shelling as possible throughout Ukraine. Mostly these people are women and children who’ve also had the added, unimaginable heartbreak of having to bid farewell to their menfolk (and sons of fighting age), never knowing for certain if they’ll ever meet again, leaving them to face destruction and possible death.
Impossible to empathise with this group of people; the only thing left to do is to bring a glimmer of light into their sorrowful lives in the way of genuine, heartfelt kindness and compassion. Helping to make their children smile again and, by default themselves.
The ACT team arrived in Ukraine with truckloads of food, clothing, medical equipment, toys etc. and a plethora of psychological tools to help these once normal, everyday citizens – just like you and me – cope just a little bit better: simple, relaxing, traditional yoga, walking meditations and conscious dancing that all go towards taking one’s mind away from its imminent worries and off into a calmer more peaceful place.
The displaced children are focal to the ACT team’s efforts as they attempt to reignite some sparks of fun in the shape of new toys, face painting, craft making and playground games. Witnessing the unnatural strain and mistrust etched into their young and once innocent faces is something awful to recall.
Six of the ACT4Ukraine group are aged between 11-22, with four adults in tow, one of them me! I was completely blown away by the unexpected joy I felt, witnessing, day in, day out, heart-melting small acts of spontaneous love and kindness from the younger team towards all of the displaced, no matter the age or disability. Their innate and unsullied ability to connect with other children despite the obvious language barriers was a miracle to behold. Once again, smiling became effortless for the displaced children as their trust was reassured in the most authentic ways.
These young people were testament to the natural goodness and love inside us all. A love that’s sadly eventually plastered over as we navigate the rocky pathways of life. The difference their unabashed, compassionate embraces brought to the faces of the less fortunate we encountered as we travelled through Ukraine will be etched onto my memory box for all time.
Coming away from this experience, some find it strange that my feelings aren’t sorrowful (as one might imagine). But on the contrary, I feel a renewed sense of hope, having had the privilege to be part of this selfless team, with the younger gang leading the way, demonstrating a purity of heart that’s a welcome reminder to us all.
Back in the UK …
Having previously received a £250 donation towards the July ’22 truck of Ukrainian aid from our local golf club in Ormskirk, Julie and I were delighted to be asked to their women’s golf presentation event on 16th August. The General Manager, Lee, would present us with a huge cardboard cheque to help garner some publicity for our cause.
The afternoon was well attended, with a festival-like atmosphere; lots of families with younger children came along to support their lady golfers’, and of course, there was plenty of free food – and a free bar!
Julie and I were excited to be representing ACT4Ukraine (T-shirts duly donned and keenly aware of the implications, responsibilities and privilege attached to such a uniform), and saw this as an ideal opportunity to mingle, help spread awareness of the ACT foundation, and perhaps, find some spare moments to highlight the upcoming Acharya event we’d booked for early September at the same venue.
Following the formalities of the awards presentation, Lee informed the assembled crowd as to how the club had supported Act4Ukraine and that Julie and I would be visible in the crowd, wearing the Act T-Shirts should anyone wish to approach us.
Slowly, a trickle of people began to drift towards us, their interest now piqued, as Julie and I continued to engage. One particularly friendly young man (I’d spoken at length to earlier), watching from the side lines as donations of money changed hands, began to ask probing questions about the set-up of the organisation. And just who this ‘Mohanji’ guy was – as was illustrated by Mohanji’s signature on the back of our shirts.
My hackles began to slowly rise, perceiving an overt tone of cynicism as I attempted to quell the growing defensive senses rising within me. Like a lioness with her cubs, inwardly preparing my armour for this unexpected attack, yet, also keenly aware of the alcohol tainting the breath from this once very amiable chap.
Confusion began to cloud my judgement as I wrestled with the instincts of reaction versus the wisdom of responding, as the bubbling emotions, begging for the freedom to defend my best friend and hero, came frothing towards the top. My feelings, lost in their footings, stumbled to navigate this mean, yet ultimately, unconscious and intoxicated assault.
Irrational and as petty as this alcohol-infused onslaught was, in reality, this was the moment my ego decided to march in, shoving down the door of resistance in the face of this perceived slight: masking his so-called concern for the sake of my naiveté, brought forth my tightly held, snappy retort, to put right his ridiculous wrong, but inside, I was crumbling, knowing for sure, I was letting the side down.
(How foolish I felt: own-goal scoring, wearing the sacred team kit, under the divine gaze of Mohanji, in the face of such ignorance. I’d bitten the bait!) Eventually, managing to gather my senses and divert the focus of this attention, the heat, most thankfully, began to abate.
Not, however, the simmering, inner feelings of disappointment; having failed to respond with more conscious composure, with less defensiveness and with more grace, of reacting with confused emotions, peppered with anger, and of momentarily losing my hard-won and well-practised ‘Mohanji cool’ whilst wearing the team kit.
Finally, seizing an opportunity to extricate myself from this sticky situation, I swiftly found fresh ground with another group, eager and willing, with money in hand, wanting to share in this common cause and felt far better armed for any further probing curiosity.
Yet inwardly though, still smarting from the last unpleasant encounter, suddenly, I became aware of tapping on my forearm and, looking down, saw a shy little girl, holding up a tiny black serviette for me to take hold.
Upon closer inspection, Bella had painstakingly chalked/scrubbed the shape of a heart (copy of our ACT4Ukraine logo) with her wonky, child-like writing of the word ‘Ukraine’ written above.
This spontaneous display of innocent love shoved the dark clouds of the previous encounter into their rightful place (out into the ether) and stood loud and proud, as yet further proof of what truly lies within.
Time after time (during my relatively short public journey, volunteering for the ACT Foundation) I am privy to witness such simple, heart-felt episodes recurring, again and again, hammering home the real meaning of our time on this earth, and that are usually delivered by the most gentle, unassuming and innocent of hands.
Volunteering for ACT has been immensely rewarding, enriching my life in so many ways and helping to cement some life-long friendships with memories to treasure.
Thank you, Mohanji, for the ACT Foundation. Thank you for supplying the balm to soothe my furrowed brow. With love from my heart to your heart, my dear, dear beloved Mohanji, for all of eternity.
|| JAI BRAHMARISHI MOHANJI ||
Edited & Published by – Testimonials Team, 25th August 2022
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