We Love Life If We Can Find A Way To It – OpEd


“We love life if we find a way to it” is a quote from a poem by the famous Arab poet Mahmoud Darwish. In this poem, Darwish addresses life and death and explores how they are intertwined in surprising ways — the condition of having a way of life reflects the desire to survive and look to the future. However, when Darwish links life and death, paradoxes begin to appear.

Not every human being on Earth is alive. I do not mean life in the literal sense of a beating heart. Rather, I am talking about anything that brings life to a community, that gives people hope and helps them stand up and look forward to a better future. Every person finds their passion, their life in something. For me, my passion is an institution — the High Atlas Foundation. It is an institution that embraced and revived me. The project of hope this institution plants showed me how life can emerge from death and how construction can occur through destruction. These are paradoxes that reflect the complex nature of life — positive things can happen despite negative circumstances and hope can grow from the seeds of despair. 

When I received the news that I would join the HAF’s empowerment team and the program funded by Project Hope as a supervisor for children, I could not wait to tell my family. I wanted to tell them that I would be helping children heal from the trauma of the Al Haouz earthquake in September 2023 and would soon embark on my first field visit to Amizmiz. Specifically, I hoped to tell the person who gave me life, my constant companion, the pillar of our home, and my safe harbor — my mother. I imagined the happiness that would fill her heart. But when I arrived at our house and opened the door to our apartment, I found my mother sick. This sight struck my heart like a sharp arrow. Her features were tired, and her eyes revealed  pain. I brought her to the nearest hospitalI and felt darkness surround me when I heard what the doctor said about my mother —  she had broken her back. 

My joy turned into deep sadness, and I felt hopelessly lost. There was no room for joy anymore. The sight of my sick mother was not only a shock, but had a profound impact on my soul. Despair crept into my heart, and I was almost swept away by its strong winds. I stopped thinking about how to give these children affected by the earthquake hope because I was in dire need of a dose of it. 

I sometimes forget that every rule has an exception, including the rule that the one who lacks something cannot not give it to someone else. I find this rule unfair and simplistic. I refuse to accept that the person who has no hope is also incapable of giving it to others. 

Feelings are sometimes hidden between the lines of our lives, visible only to those who look closely. We all have a second life separated from our reality, which we live in silence. Sometimes it is not clear to those who know us, not because we are mysterious, but because our faces have become colored with professional masks that are almost impossible to decipher. 

Some written words can only be read by those who live between the lines and feel the things which are unseen to others. They are only read by those who have the extraordinarily emotional capacity to penetrate the external performances and find sincere internal realities. These people are often the soldiers of innocence — children. 

The children who survived the earthquake helped me rediscover life. I never expected that at their young age they would live through rocks cascading over the mountains and into their villages. Some of them became orphans, some witnessed the annihilation of their family and home, some became displaced overnight, some suffered post-traumatic stress symptoms. 

There is one teenager who, due to the trauma from the sound of the earthquake, urinates involuntarily whenever he is startled by the ringing classroom bell. Despite the various tragedies and cruelty that they experienced, the children came to the workshop with all their enthusiasm, as if they were casting off their sorrows at the doorstep before entering a new world of hope. Their hope infected me and inspired me to work to repay them. With all these differences in our situations, we were both able to change and bring joy to each other’s lives without realizing it.. 

Children are armed with a beautiful stubbornness, and it is this that they ultimately gave me this from them. They were my teachers without realizing it. They taught me to “love life if we are able to find a way to it.” A person must often regain the stubbornness of childhood in order to be resilient throughout life, not only for themselves, but for every person for whom they are living.  Praise be to God who restored my sight after it was extinguished.

Our interpersonal relationships are not complete unless there is shared sacrifice, love, and passion. We live with each other. At our best, we try to understand each other. But not everyone is proficient in the art of reading between the lines. “Those who understand life deeply insist on being strangers to their social surroundings.” This is the price of profound knowledge, but there is no escape for people who bear this heavy burden. In most cases, they do not choose to perform this duty at first of their own free will, and then after that they realize that this work is beneficial to people, so their sadness goes away because, no matter how hard life is, we must strive to find a way to it.

Nouhaila El Fatimi

Nouhaila El Fatimi is a Program Coordinator at High Atlas Foundation.

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