This is an ugly world. I have had to stop reading the news because it makes me depressed. Constant news of people inflicting pain on other human beings, animals, the earth… some times I cannot believe that these are other humans I was reading about. The things we do to each other, to kids, to anything – do we have no heart? It turns out, some really do not.
Then I get into a loop of despair, wondering how much of what we do to help actually matters.
Two years ago, Hong Kong was seeing an increase in youth suicides. A few friends asked why I was not doing what I was doing in Beijing, also in Hong Kong, seeing that is where I spent most of my formative years. There were lots of reasons, but I saw that they had a point. So I tried. With the support of friends and kindred spirits, we put on a public event. The struggle two years ago, was whether we would even put the word “suicide” in our event title, because we were not sure if people would want to come to a “heavy” event.
We decided not to shy away from it, because that was what we wanted to do – raise awareness and normalize the conversation. Talk about the unspeakable and unbearable, and have courage to discuss painful issues. We publicized, we spoke, we answered questions, chatted with those who came casually, then we finished the event.
Then I went home.
A few days later, I got an email from a friend of a friend. She was a song writer, and she had written a poem that was inspired by the discussions during the event. I read the poem and it brought tears to my eyes. It was as if she not only understood what we were trying to say, she could feel it, really feel it – the aches, the pain, the struggles, the dilemmas, the life, the death, and everything in between. She said she wanted to write a song about the conversation.
I encouraged her to. A few emails here and there and then some silence on both our parts. Then emails suddenly popped out again with draft lyrics in English and Chinese, and I thought, “Wow, this is really for real.”
Then silence again.
And then, two years later, here it is: a song written and produced by Monika Lietchi, with the support of other musicians from different nationalities and HK school principals, a non-profit project, for no other reason but love.
Cynical and sarcastic, 99% of the time I see someone post something like “so honoured to be….” on social media, I scoff, and wonder, “Really? That’s an honour?” – especially if it appears on every other post. I had made a mental rule to not use that phrase lightly so as not to dilute the real honours. I think I have used that word once so far, when I was appointed to the Executive Committee of the Global Mental Health Peer Network. And here, I will use it for the second time – I can indeed feel the honour to be invited to be part of Monika’s journey as she started this music video idea from scratch.
It was a privilege to be able to give my opinions, thoughts, and comments on the lyrics, share my reactions and feelings towards the song, and to know that she found them worthy enough to incorporate. All I did was sit at home, look at the screen, and do a brain dump. Monika and the team, I’m sure, spent many nights in labour and toil.
There are times when my arrogance plays out and my defense mechanisms of omnipotence and superiority are in full swing – when I think I know better (I DO!) and that I have had an impact on the world. In those moments, I would probably believe I had inspired such a grand project.
This time, I know better (haha!) than that. This was not because I had inspired anything, and I deserve no credit.
We see the ripple effect of one thought from the fruition of this music video – this, my friends, is social impact and something good!
There may be other starting points, but I trace this to Small Lee sending my blog to Benita years ago, who has read and emailed with me for years. Jason coming to Beijing and having dinner with me, and telling me to stop flaffing about, to do something in HK, and to talk to Benita. JP who reached out and helped throughout the process and ideas generation. L4 + Fish for the continued mo-liu-ness and support. Vivian for sponsoring the venue even though we have never met. Clarence, Diane, and Jimmy for agreeing to be on the panel that night, Benita for moderating. Scarlet, Priscilla, Jennifer, and many others for coming. Vienna in spirit and Sarah in her drools. Christine for suggesting Monika to come, and Monika for coming to the evening amidst her hectic schedule.
As you well see, the credit goes to these people — the people who suggested that I do something, the people who helped plan the event, the people who provided, the people who came, the people who shared their stories, the people who asked questions, and most of all, to the people who give shelter to others when things get ugly.
For Monika, for showing me there is love still in this world.