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Musings: The Power of One

We find ourselves trapped in a highly polarized society that is fragmented and rapidly disintegrating.  We seem to be in an unstoppable downward spiral.  The dilemma in front of us is that we are more globally connected than ever before and yet somehow more domestically disconnected than ever. How can we as individuals be the change we want to see in the world and make an impact through our small voices?
The world desperately needs engaged and inspired individuals that can address our planet’s most pressing dilemmas including the loss of democracy, freedom, inclusiveness, environmental issues, poverty, immigration, crime, violence, and divisiveness.  As concerned and caring individuals we must take on these challenges and create effective sustainable solutions.  So how do we get there?
Gandhi’s famous quote “Be the change you want to see in the world” has inspired many including me to transform a malaise in our society and create a holistic remedy that spawns a better more inclusive and compassionate society.  We all have that POWER OF ONE when we decide to get engaged.  Gandhi brought the might of the entire British Empire on its knees in freeing India from colonial rule without ever firing a bullet.
Malala Yousafzai in 2012 on her way home from school at the age of 15 was shot on the left side of her head by a masked Taliban and barely survived the attack.  Today she tirelessly works to ensure all girls receive 12 years of free, safe quality education.  More than 130 million girls are out of school in the world today, but Malala has successfully taken on this daunting challenge and is making a big difference.
Greta Thunberg (born 3 January 2003) is a Swedish schoolgirl who, at age 15, began protesting outside the Swedish parliament about the need for immediate action to combat climate change and has since become an international outspoken climate activist.  In her speech to the United Nations, she says, “In the year 2078, I will celebrate my 75th birthday.  If I have children maybe they will spend that day with me.  Maybe they will ask me about you.  Maybe they will ask why you didn’t do anything while there still was time to act… We have come here to let you know that change is coming, whether you like it or not. The real power belongs to the people.”
In my own world 24 years ago when my son Tariq was murdered by a 14- year gang member in a random senseless act of violence – I asked, “how did we create a society where children kill children?”Seeing that there were victims at both ends of the gun, I realized that the enemy was not the 14 year old who killed my son but the societal pressures that force many young boys and girls to fall through the crack and choose lives of gangs, crime, drugs, alcohol, and weapons.
That realization inspired me to create the Tariq Khamisa Foundation to make certain that no young person ends up dead like my son or in prison like the young man who killed him.  TKF is in its 24th year and is successfully meeting this challenge. The grandfather and guardian of the young man, Ples Felix who killed my son has worked alongside me for these years and is equally committed to this vision.  The young man, Tony Hicks, who killed Tariq is now 38 years old and was recently paroled supported by my daughter Tasreen  (who serves as the Executive Director of TKF) and someday when he is ready will join us in this challenge.
While I had no training in social services and both Malala and Greta started at a young age, our shared determination was to become the change we want to see in the world. We are trying our best to address the respective malaises in our society – but the more important question is, are you?
Peace and many blessings,
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Azim Khamisa

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