Since I’ve been in Chile, there have been temblors, tsunami warnings, earthquakes, and fires. I apologized to my host mom because clearly I cursed Chile.
The most recent of these disasters was the Valpo fire this past weekend. When our group returned from Santiago last Saturday evening, none of us expected that the dark cloud on the horizon had come from a raging forest fire in our neighboring city to the south. The smoke was beautiful and ominous at the same time, creating new shades of pink and orange in our beloved Chilean sunset. However, we didn’t find out until later the extent of the damage that had occurred. The fire destroyed anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand homes (every source I’ve found states a different number than the last) and left 11 people dead.
<photo from radio.uchile.cl>
After so many natural disasters, I think many countries may have considered just tossing in the towel. Chile is different though. Neighboring cities, my own included, have rallied around the relief effort, raising money and collecting donations, removing debris and planning the next step for the port city. Fuerza Chile is a common theme on my newsfeed, from my fellow exchange students to my Chilean friends, showing that strong countries begin with strong people.
In the book I’m reading right now, Eat Pray Love, the author quoted an old Buddhist teaching that says “The world is afflicted with death and decay, therefore the wise do not grieve, knowing the terms of the world.” I thought that was such an interesting way to look at times of struggle. It’s basically saying, bad things are gonna go down, but it’s not gonna help you to sit in a corner and cry about it. Chile knows this, and instead of mourning, they’re rallying, and fixing, and helping, and changing the bad back into good. The terms of the world may be that bad things happen, but the terms of the wise are that nothing has to stay bad for long. I think Chile is a wise country. Or I may have just misinterpreted the entire quote.
While you can’t change the terms of the world, you can definitely change how you react to them. Make your afflictions into lessons learned, your bad times into memories passed, and your struggles into a chance for unity.