慈濟傳播人文志業基金會
Words from Master Cheng Yen--The World Needs Great Love

A quake victim hugs a Tzu Chi volunteer at a Tzu Chi aid distribution in Tláhuac, Mexico, in December 2017. Huang Xiao-zhe

 

A massive 7.1-magnitude earthquake struck central Mexico at 1:14 p.m. local time on September 19, 2017. In an instant, many historic buildings were damaged and countless homes crumbled. Possessions big and small were suddenly gone. How unbearable it must have been for survivors to cope with the painful reality of losing everything.

Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Mexico soon after the temblor to assess damage and formulate relief plans. Group after group of volunteers from Taiwan, America, Argentina, Ecuador, as well as from Mexico itself, took turns visiting the disasters areas. The volunteers saw donated relief goods from all over, including food, daily necessities, and used clothes, piled all over the streets. They realized that if they wanted to help survivors, they would have to give the kind of aid that was needed and not add to the burden of the survivors or the local communities. After evaluation, it was decided that Tzu Chi would distribute gift cards so that victims could purchase what they needed the most.

To find the families most in need of help, our volunteers visited household after household to compile rosters of recipients for the distribution. This proved to be difficult because the volunteers did not know anyone in the disaster areas, nor were the survivors familiar with Tzu Chi. To facilitate their work, the volunteers realized that the best way would be to inspire local people to join them.

When volunteers made house calls, they extended care to the victims they met and invited those who seemed especially warmhearted to join them on their home visits and help record the number of people in each family and their living conditions. They tried to bring out the love in people by letting them know that despite being victims, they too could reach out to help others. Gradually, the people who joined our volunteers came to see that although they had taken a hit from the earthquake, there were others who were suffering even more and needed help. Reaching out to give them love, the new volunteers discovered what a blessing it was to be able to help others.

At first, our volunteers weren’t sure if they could win the trust of the local people. The locals had their doubts too—they didn’t know if this group of foreigners was really there to help them. By and by, however, the locals could feel the sincere love and goodwill of our volunteers. Some even began training to learn how to conduct home visits. With time, more and more people could be seen on the streets wearing our volunteer vests—they had all joined in to help make home visits. From people waiting to receive aid, they had turned into people who gave help.

Our foundation has helped many countries over the last five decades, but what happened in Mexico was the first in our history: Even before we distributed aid there, our volunteers bonded deeply with the local people. The hundreds of Mexican people who volunteered for our foundation might have practiced a different religion, but they still identified with Tzu Chi’s philosophy and ideals. Some even hope that one day they might come to Taiwan and visit the birthplace of Tzu Chi.

The most valuable things in life are not material goods, but sincere love and inspiring words that can help people open their hearts, overcome sadness and afflictions, and find courage to keep going. The survivors might have lost valuable possessions to the earthquake, but once they began to help others with love and empathy, they could transcend their loss and become rich again—in spirit. Such intangible spiritual wealth is not something anyone or anything can take away. It’s very uplifting to see the survivors stick out their chests and smile brightly. They have truly tapped into their inner strength and transformed suffering into happiness.

As fellow human beings, we all live under the same sky and on the same Earth. We should all pay attention to what is happening in the world and join hands with other like-minded people to spread love. Wherever there is a call for help, we must remember that all human beings’ fates are intertwined, and so we must extend a helping hand. Many people are in need in this world, and many living bodhisattvas are doing their best to help relieve suffering. If we can give in a timely matter, we can all become life changers.

January 2018