After reading a poignant article in the newspaper this weekend about one battalion’s losses in Afghanistan, I feel so frivolous writing about travel, planning vacations, and other enjoyable aspects of a free life. There are soldiers dying and losing limbs, and families torn apart so we can do so.
The LA Times article is about the Camp Pendleton-based Marines of the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment that is trying to weed out the Taliban in one of Afghanistan’s dangerous hot spots. According to the article, in just four months, 24 of the Marines have been killed…more than 140 wounded.
One wife of a Marine got the dreadful knock on the door with the message her husband had been killed by a sniper – one day before she gave birth to their baby boy. A pregnancy the couple planned in case he didn’t come home. Now, she now was in it alone.
So how can I in good conscious bring myself to tell you on which beautiful beach you should pull up a lounge chair and sip your Pina Colada?
Luckily, I kept reading the paper beyond the front page. Photos of former Peace Corps founding director Sargent Shriver’s burial reminded me of his philosophy: by traveling the world and getting to know other cultures, and they us, we are creating a stronger understanding of each other -and forging pathways to peace. I guess it’s possible to make international friends on that beautiful beach… and elsewhere in the world. God knows we need some in Sangin, Afghanistan.
Even if you can’t become a Peace Corps volunteer, here are some organizations that could enrich your life and the lives of others by connecting you with various volunteer vacations:
1) www.volunteermatch.org - You will find US based organizations that place you in foreign lands. For instance, I found Cross Cultural Solutions, where you work side by side with locals from Africa, Asia, East Europe, or Latin America to improve the circumstances of the residents. Also there is CitiIMPACT Ministries helping communities world wide in disaster relief, poverty, hunger, and homelessness. And a great way to form a bond with someone internationally is to hose an exchange student – how tos also on the website.
2) www.amizade.org – popular with college students.
3) www.volunteerfamily.org - A wonderful way to expose your children to the benefits of public service…bring them along on a family-appropriate venture.
4) www.globalcitizens.org – trying to bridge a gap between our world’s cultures
I am no accountant, but many of these trips may be tax deductible.
I will leave you with something that according to the New York Times, Shriver told volunteers: “Break mirrors…In our society that is so self-absorbed, begin to look less at yourself and more at each other. Learn more about the face of your neighbor and less about your own.” What a rich legacy.
Travel with purpose. RIP Sargent Shriver and fallen soldiers.