There was a moment in Malawi that I won't forget. A moment that makes me cringe at the thoughts that went through my head.
We had been filming and gathering stories all day, it was hot, and it had been a really frustrating start to the day and I was feeling it. When we first landed in Malawi we wanted to find a story that best told of what we saw. We saw huge devastation to the land and lives of the people who relied on it. However, over the first few days, we couldn't find the right jigsaw piece; the story that would best translate what was going on, on the ground.
As our final day of filming was coming to a close, Trywell, our amazing Malawian host [man at the start of the film] brought us to see a lady that he knew. Her name was Selena. We got everything set up for the interview on camera. A secondary camera had been set up and it was good to go. As I set up the main interview camera I set the frame of the shot and paused. I looked through the camera at Selena who was sitting there composing herself. For some reason I knew this would be our story even though I had no knowledge of this lady. We rolled the cameras and below is the story we got.
Selena was incredible. Her story speaks for itself and as we listened to her it was clear just how strong and determined she was even though she was fighting against the odds trying to make things right for her family.
As I finished up the shots of Selena and prepared to head out two things happened.
First I had the immediate sense of outrage like a pressing sense of the injustice, followed shortly [too shortly] by a sense of that if I just forgot what I saw then my life didn't have to change one bit.
I can remember being horrified at myself as we packed up the van and said our goodbyes to the village. I closed the door on the van as the kids surrounded us and I remember the weird sense of relief that I felt when I closed the door and got back into the air conditioned van. There was now a physical barrier between me and the horror that I had experienced.
It's not the first time I have been faced with stories and realities that I struggle to process, and my reaction has been cold.
I can remember filming stories of people on the Syrian boarder telling us how their children had been killed or other family members and I felt nothing.
I have thought about this feeling long and hard in an attempt to understand it. There is clear evidence that I am deeply affected by the stories and realities that I have experienced during trips to countries around the world, but understanding this numb feeling has brought me to the conclusion that when I experience something in life where I have the option of putting distance between me and the reality, I will pick that. My reality was that I was getting back into a air conditioned car and was able to fly home to the comfortable life that I had created around me.
The comfort I have created in my life is like a drug. A drug that I have become addicted too. A drug that is robbing me of true connection with the world around me because surely if I wasn't so addicted to the comfort around me, when I experienced the realities of the people that I met in Malawi, my life would be forced to change? Do I really want that?
The differences between Selena's reality and mine are VAST. However, what I have found is that the source of a lot of the differences are choice. I have the choice to jump into a car and forget about what is going on. I have the choice to ignore that people's lives are being destroyed by violence in Syria. I have the choice to go wrap myself up in comfort. Selena and millions of people around the world through no fault of their own have no choice but to live the life that they have been given, so whenever her crops fail due to unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change, the only choice is to find, something, ANYTHING, that will give some sense of nutrition to her family.
The choices I make in my life might be good choices for me and for my family, but how can I make choices that affect the people around the world whose choices are extremely limited? How different would my life look if for one year in 2017 I challenged myself to make smarter choices, choices that go beyond my need for comfort but seek to change the lives of others around the world. Not to be a hero, far from it, Selena is way more of a hero here, but if I start to get my head around the fact that I have choices in life that negatively affect people around the world like Selena, SURELY I should be trying to do something about it.
In 2017 the choice I will be making is to live my life in a way that positively affects others. Challenging myself out of the comfort, challenging myself to show true care, not just the sort of care that sounds good.