Saturday, February 12, 2011

For whom the bell tolls: Bomb blasts and our global family

Lahore is a city filled with indescribable beauty. The mango colored sunrises over the Ravi River, the lifted laughter of kite-flying-kids running across Race Course Park, the bowling and batting of cricket balls in the back alleys of Badami Bagh, the curves of shrines and mosques that weave throughout Mall Road, the 10 million smiles that illuminate the markets and malls (even during the longest blackout).

Last month, there was a bomb blast – approximately 5 blocks from our Pharmagen Water Shop – that attempted to destroy that beauty. At least 11 people died, including the 13 year old boy who was likely bought and brainwashed to bear the explosive.

Two days later, still unsure how to respond, I came across the following poem:
No man is an island entire of itself
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
It tolls for thee

Reading this piece, I immediately thought about my 11 person family – including my littlest brother Gerry – and realized that even though I never met the 11 who died that day in Lahore, they were a part of me. They were my brothers and sisters. They were my parents. They were my family…

By adopting 7 children and living a life of sacrificial and impartial love, my parents began teaching me at an early age that family is a globally inclusive idea. And when my dad and I first traveled to Kenya 7 years ago I began to understand what that really means. I realized that the abandoned wives/mothers struggling with HIV in the Kibera slum were my sisters, the young men running from gangs and drugs in Mathare were my brothers, and the couple in the Rift Valley struggling to feed their kids a single meal a day were my parents.

Reading this poem in Lahore, I realized that that the 11 who died on January 25 were also my family.

And I realized that you – wherever you might live, whoever you might be, whatever you might believe, however you might feel about me – are also my family. And together, we need to realize that our globally family is struggling and the bell is tolling, for them and for us. 


  1. I wish more of us could feel in this way. Thank you for the beautiful post and especially for having such deep relationship with people.

  2. Me too Waqas, but perhaps there are more of us than we realize!

    The real question is whether my actions reflect this belief. If I didn't tell you about this idea through this post, would you still be able to identify it on your own? Probably not, which means that 1) I need to make some serious adjustments and 2) perhaps there are others who think similarly but we just haven't noticed yet.

  3. So sorry to hear about the blast last month. Please stay safe! You and your community are in our thoughts.

    Do you feel like the bombers are part of your family? You left them out of the discussion on who was in your family. And although that is understandable for the terrible things they did, I thought you would've dwelt more on that difficult but I think more important question.

    I read your post last night. It was just before I saw Ruthy Foster in concert. While I was reading, I remember feeling like something in your post didn't resonate. And after listening to Foster's rendition of 'Fruits of my labor,' I understood why.

    When I first read your post, the 'realizations' that widows and the disadvantaged were your family rang hollow - I'm sorry if that sounds terrible! But that was my initial gut reaction. And when I was listening to Ms. Foster sing, I understood my reaction.

    Foster's voice was so beautiful that every person around me was lost in her words. We were singing with her and I had forgotten the world around me. In that moment, the talk about family in your post came to mind and how participating in that music was so different from listening to the bell toll - It reminded me that strangers, even people who may have done very bad things, can be brought together when participating actively in music or hikes or enjoying one another's company. What I mean to say is that it is celebrating life - our very different lives - rather than listening to that bell reminding us of our common death, that brings strangers together as a family.

    I hope that when you meet these 'widows,' and the 'poor' that you do not label them so often in your thoughts with those words - words that, heard so often, do begin to take their toll.

  4. also, that is a gorgeous picture! did you take it?

  5. "It is celebrating life... that brings strangers together as a family" I really love this and completely agree. In fact, without a celebration of life, none of this would even matter!

    And yes, I am definitely including the 13 year old bomber and even the others responsible, in hopes that we might learn to look at the "bad guy" differently. Which is really what this idea is all about, and why your comments about the widows and poor are so important. By realizing that "these people" aren't actually "these people" but rather our family, we can begin to remove them from the "widows" and "poor" boxes we so often shove them in, and instead embrace them as we do our own brothers and sisters.

    Love this picture too! It was taken by Muhammed Muheisen, who has several amazingly brilliant pics here:

  6. Benje, my brother, you are a great hearth! I like your perspective and I believe that, despite all the challenges of growing up in a large family you had the privilege of being introduced to layers of life that less and less people see nowadays.

    Your perspective on humanity deserves being shared.

  7. Mario, my man, thanks for the love brother!

  8. Such a beautiful post! (I came across it via Misbah)

  9. Benje,

    This post is so powerful and truly a reminder of the human connection we all share.

    Thank you,


  10. Thanks so much Blair.

    And Kalsoom, love your blog CHUP! Really inspiring posts. (Say hi to Mis for me!)