A Letter to Millennials

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I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground”, Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Dear Millennials,

I am writing to you because you are the future and hope of this world and it feels like writing to my own daughter. I am writing to you because in a fast-changing world sometimes it is easy to get lost.

Since 2014, throughout our missions at sea with MOAS’ crew, I have met many young boys and girls like you. So similar, but also so different. I have met thousands of adolescents, who had just attained the adult age. Life has been less generous with them than with those of you who were born in the right part of the world. Most of the young people rescued at sea have actually been forced to become adults prematurely by the violence that has marked their body and soul. Nevertheless, they are not that different from you.

They dream of a peaceful life and the fulfillment of their dreams in the future, just like you. So, that’s why I am writing to you, because you are often better than us, the adults, at putting yourselves in someone else’s shoes.

We live in an extremely narcissistic society where appearance is so relevant that we neglect what makes us really unique and special: our inner world. Our values, our feelings, our dreams make us different from, and similar to, the others at the same time.

A migrant sits on the deck of the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS) ship Phoenix as the ship, carrying 453 migrants and seven bodies on board, arrives in Augusta on the island of Sicily, Italy, April 19, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Mohammed, aged 14, comes from Afghanistan and dreams of peace, like my daughter who was born in Italy. However, the meaning of the word peace is contrasting: to Mohammed it means fleeing bombs, to my daughter peace means serenity and light heartedness surrounded by her loved ones.

The current fake reality we live in is often ephemeral and misleading, it is based on ostentation that makes us forget the value of small things. This outward image does not only permeate our daily life, but also reaches the homeland of most of the people we rescue at sea. No matter if they come from extremely poor areas in Africa and Middle-East or war-torn regions, like Syria, when they talk about Europe, they all depict it in the same way: a rich and safe continent, granting human rights and a better future, as well as a place where to study, where to find a decent job and build a family with no fear for their children. To them Europe, and namely Italy, is what they watch on internet or on tv: a place so rich and prosperous as to share wealth and well-being amid its citizens and those arriving after hellish journeys.  Maybe this illusion of a perfect and easy life is the real pull-factor for the many young people leaving their hopeless countries of origin and chasing a better life in our continent… Maybe this illusion makes their disappointment even more stinging after facing the bitter reality…

However, we are not our bank account, we are not the cars we drive. Life cannot be measured by our belongings and possessions, that will end up possessing us instead, if we are not careful enough. The deeper sense of life and the intimate core of our humanity depends on our ability to serve those in pain and to share our success with them. It depends on our ability to give, more than to take. It depends on our way of being aware, but not selfish and egoist.

We live in a world with countless chances; technology allows us to explore places and know people far away from us. By clicking on our keyboard we have the world in our hands. Media allow us to communicate with friends and relatives living thousands of kilometers away. Nevertheless, these superficial relationships often condemn us to isolation: geographical distance almost disappears, but emotional distance increases.

 

So, I ask myself and you: why don’t we chose to use our talent to serve the most vulnerable part of our shared community? Why don’t we spend our time and energy for a good cause instead of spending our money to buy pointless things, that do not grant happiness?

When my family and I started our adventure to create MOAS, we did it by following genuine values, by  using talents and resources for those who had not been as lucky in life as us, and my daughter, who was 18 at that time, welcomed joyfully the idea of being at the forefront to save human lives.

Dear guys and girls, 4 years have gone by; 4 years of missions, that have led us far from home and often divided us even on holidays or celebrations. We have experienced sacrifices, physical and emotional challenges alongside those who have worked with us. We have sailed against the tide with the ultimate goal to save people risking their life at sea.

Undoubtedly, we have had ups and downs because sometimes we were tired, discouraged and without confidence. But, our reward after rescuing a human being is an immense joy which erases worries or uncertainties. In fact, the real core of our humanity lies there: in giving a helping hand or a hug and in smiling to someone who has lost everything but hope.

 

This letter was originally published in Italian by HuffPost Italia

Please click here to read the Italian version