On my most difficult days, when I feel like I can’t go on anymore and have forgotten my purpose – when the fire in my heart has dwindled down to barely a flicker of light, when I am about to give up, I remember the reason I held on for so long.
I remember the beautiful refugee children who deserve to live in peace, play joyfully and have their dreams realized. I remember my incredible friends who have supported my journey around the world as we serve humanity side by side, hand in hand. I remember the sweet mothers I have met around the world who want nothing more than to give their children a better life and a safer world — one that does not leave any room for hate. Although I am not a mother myself, remembering the love of those mothers for the children and the strength it gives them to carry on renews something in me and gives me strength.
I remember the Syrian refugee children I encountered in Jordan. While we live in our homes with roofs over our heads, running water, sanitation, food, and the latest technology, those Syrian refugee children are living in tents and get excited over balloons and a soccer ball. Even just making silly faces for pictures together means the world to them. Their smiles and resilience despite it all empowers me to keep moving forward and working to make a better life for them.
Every time I feel as if the world is inherently evil and as if nothing I do matters, I remember the voices of my friends and family who remind me of my purpose, my passion, and the reason God created me. I am reminded of the quote by Rumi:
“Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”
Throughout my journey, from the time I finished nursing school as an undergraduate until now, I have had so many cheerleaders along the way who have understood the passion in my heart. The one that yearns for me to go to places where people do not have access to health care, especially mental health care, to offer myself as a resource.
From the USA to Palestine, Greece, and Jordan, my passion has taken me around the world to work with refugees. It has led me to meet some of my very best friends in Jordan who I continue to work with on projects in Gaza Camp. Hiba, Khaled, and Basheer, as well as countless others, inspire me with their energy and dedication to improving living conditions for the people of Gaza Camp in Jerash, Jordan.
It has led me to Allie, who is such a joy to be around, and children everywhere flock to her for her positive energy and happy vibes. She understands my passion for mental health, and is a role model and mentor to me.
It has led me to Dina, who works tirelessly every single day on an app that will provide food for everyone, so no one in the world will ever feel hungry or die of starvation. It has also led me to The International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA) in Jordan, where so many bright young men and women are doing their training to become caring, compassionate doctors who will holistically heal their patients.
My passion has led me to Greece where I met so many amazing people from around the world working to rescue refugees coming off boats and provide them with both safety and a loving welcome. Fatima, Ali, Laurie, Nizar, Youssef, Emad, Fidaa, Borja, Oscar, Ahmad, Sasa, Danijel, Mario, and countless others were just a few of the amazing souls working non-stop to rescue refugees coming to the island of Chios. The loving care they provided helped refugees with a safe passage and hope for a better future for their families.
My passion has led me to Palestine where I have volunteered with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) in the West Bank and Gaza and encountered even more inspiring human beings. In the Hay Al Zaytoon neighborhood of Gaza, where I spent Christmas day with the children living there, it led me to understanding the meaning of pure bliss, of feeling like if my heart was any more full, it would burst. The love and smiles of the children in that area of Gaza as we played together is forever etched in my memory, and it keeps me going.
It has led me to parties at the Huda Al Masri pediatric cancer department in Beit Jala, where the children with cancer inspired me with their passion for life and determination to beat their illness. Steve Sossebee and his wonderful team of staff and volunteers with the PCRF around the world inspire me with their dedication to healing children.
My passion has even led me to meet wonderful and supportive coworkers and colleagues at the university where I completed my doctorate, and now teach, who also understand my love and passion for global health – not only where health care access is a concern, but meeting basic human needs and giving people their human rights to safety, clean water, food, clothing, and education is strongly encouraged and emphasized. Even in my work life, my passion is fueled by the love and support of people around me who show interest in my work and wanting to get involved. My professors, colleagues, and students have helped keep my passion going in the classroom, clinic, and hospital settings.
“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Until you’ve been in the environment of the refugee camp, the remote villages, the areas where people are living in poverty and have no access to basic necessities – both in your own country and abroad – you will never understand what it is like to truly be a servant of God. May God place this love for humanity and service in all of us, in our own unique way. As Socrates so eloquently stated: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So it’s worth asking, what is your passion? How can you work to live the life you are passionate about, with the people who support your passions?
Think about what you really enjoyed doing as a kid, and what you really enjoy now. How can you turn that into something that can benefit the world? While we don’t all have the same passions, we each have some motivation that gets us out of bed every morning. It could be working with children, animals, people with disabilities, nature, human rights, political activism, or a myriad of other worthy causes.
Find meet-up groups for people with similar interests. Find travel buddies. Take courses on topics you enjoy. Read books about different issues. Visit nonprofit organizations responsible for social justice causes you feel drawn to. Reach out to lecturers/experts on the topic you are passionate about to further fuel your passion and keep it alive. Talk to people who support your passion and can help you to keep moving forward, even on the days you feel like you are stuck. Keep pictures, special keepsakes, and other little reminders that you can turn back to when you feel like all hope is lost. They will help ignite that spark again. Do more of what you love and are passionate about, and God will always send you angels to help you do khair (good).