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Are We There Yet? vol. 104

The other day, my good friend and colleague, Sheila Flett, shared a story about 19-year-old Racheal Diyaoulu, a 19 year old medical student in Sumy, Ukraine who was rescued and transported out of Ukraine. Sheila’s connection is that Racheal graduated last year from the same high school, St. Leo’s College, in Carlow, Ireland that Sheila attended and where Sheila’s sister is now the principal.  Sumy is a city in northeastern Ukraine not far from Kharkiv and only 25 miles from the Russian border.  As Sheila noted, Racheal’s parents were frustrated that she had refused to come home earlier and as Sheila put it, Racheal “did not want to interrupt her life there . . . just like any of us would have responded when we were 19!”

Her rescuers made multiple attempts to get to Sumy and in one of those instances, Russian soldiers shot out their car tires and stole one of their phones. Undeterred, they went back to Sumy with the assistance of locals and eventually delivered Racheal across the border into the EU.

And who were these rescuers? Former green berets? Mercenaries? No, Joe McCarthy and Gary Taylor are landscape gardeners from Falkirk, a small Scottish town between Edinburgh and Glasgow. On his gofundme page, Joe states that “After watching the news all day on Thursday (the first day of the invasion) I decided I needed to go and help people who are stuck or having to walk to the border because they have no transport.”  They then took their work van and headed to Ukraine. As reported in the Guardian, “Despite their terrifying brush with the Russians, McCarthy and Taylor say they intend to go back to Ukraine – with more than a dozen requests outstanding.”

Not for the first time, we see ordinary people doing extraordinary things. As I watch the devastation in Ukraine and fear what comes next, this story is a reminder that there are many, many people who, at great personal sacrifice and sometimes personal risk, set aside their own concerns to help strangers in need.

BOOK:

The Zen of Therapy: Uncovering a Hidden Kindness in Life by Mark Epstein, M.D.

In The Zen of Therapy, Dr. Epstein reflects on a year’s worth of selected sessions with his patients and observes how, in the incidental details of a given hour, his Buddhist background influences the way he works. Meditation and psychotherapy each encourage a willingness to face life's difficulties with courage that can be hard to otherwise muster, and in this cross-section of life in his office, he emphasizes how therapy, an element of Western medicine, can in fact be considered a two-person meditation. Mindfulness, too, much like a good therapist, can “hold” our awareness for us—and allow us to come to our senses and find inner peace.