Afghanistan is an environment where it’s easy to harden your sense of humanity into very black-and-white molds of “good guys” and “bad guys.” I’m on the “good guy” team obviously. I listen to the soldiers around me sometimes talk about “vaporizing” the “bad guys” (ok I’m simplifying and PG-ing the “bad guys” terms…many more bad words mixed in there) like it’s just a normal part of life…which it actually is here. But you work in and around the concept of killing the bad guys long enough, and somewhere along the way, the bad guys’ evil traits spread in the minds of the soldiers to extend to all Afghans. I can see how easy it is to happen because of how many innocent lives are lost as a result of the bad guys on a daily basis…it sours all sense of hope for saving anything here. You see little boys running around in the street playing with a ball, and you can’t help but find yourself starting to hate the evil men some of them will become…yet they’re just children.
So I made a decision that for one day, I was going to stay on alert for “acts of humanity” here on the base I’m on. I would go around and do the things I normally do – but take note of anything that reflected goodness and heart and soul.
- I saw a girl drop something (too far away to see what), and another girl passing immediately bent down, picked up the dropped object, gave to back to the girl with a smile, patted her on the shoulder and kept walking. – I went to a church service where the chaplain leading the service had us all bow our heads and pray for our friends and families back home…that’s something I don’t think most people back home realize…as they’re praying for the guys out here, they’re praying right back for the loved ones back home.
- I witnessed a US soldier (my coworker) and a young Afghan man who works in the dining hall talking and laughing and getting to know one another. The Afghan talked about how he goes to college classes in the morning, then works the evening shift at the dining hall, and how his dad is a schoolmaster in town and makes sure his 2 daughters get an education by walking them personally to school every day. Here, the middle of war, two men brought together from completely different worlds and backgrounds getting to know one another and smiling and laughing.
- In the gym on the evening of my “day of looking out for acts of humanity,” I stood there and took in the scene. There were Candians, Romanians, Americans, French, Croatians and Hungarians…everyone was working out together, talking and laughing, and even cheering one another on at the end of the crazy difficult workout. Here, again, the realization hit – here were soldiers from all over the world who have voluntarily signed up to do this job – they’ve all been transported to a distant desert country that is corrupt and filled with men who want nothing more than to kill them – and yet there they stood smiling, cheering, and working with one another.
It goes without saying that I was humbled by what I witnessed on that one day of observation. I’ll let the US soldier who let the dining hall door slam on me with a full tray of food in my hands off the hook because maybe he didn’t see me (though I’m pretty sure he did) – but the GOOD far far outweighed the BAD. …and I can sum up my whole experience here so far with that same outlook. The humanity and the goodness far outweighs the evil and bad here. It is in the eyes and smiles and determination in every soldier from around the world, every government employee and contractor (like me) who work alongside the military, and all of the local citizens who help make living here possible.