The Day I Get Rid of My Heart
by Thich Nhat Hanh
My brother, the one with brown skin, is hungry. Hell is right here. I was not mindful, and you took away my part of the steak.
My brother, the one with yellow skin, is destitute. His little boy fainted in school this morning, because he lacked even a small sweet potato to eat. I was busy struggling to prevent the landlord from raising the rent. You equipped your company with new machines, and I lost my job.
My brother, the one with white skin, practices three times eight. He does not eat or sleep like the rest of his family. He is so nervous that he beats his wife and terrorizes his children. Hell is there. Our struggle is there. How can we lend a hand to a brother so far away?
You said, “In the interest of the nation, we cannot stop development.” Knowing I am without a job, you offer me a position in your company making bombs and guns to sell to faraway countries. My children are hungry, my wife is crying, and I almost give in. But our brothers there need food. Why do you send them bombs and guns to kill each other?
Because I was not mindful, you took away my steak. Because I was neglectful, you took away the color TV, the Mustang, and the resort house by the sea. You tell me it is easy to have a car and a TV, I only have to sign on the dotted line and work for you. I am already bound by so many things, I do not want to enter another maze. You say I am crazy, that I am a snail who cannot carry even my own shell while I think about shouldering the Himalayan Mountains.
You used the grain that could have fed my brother to produce your steak, and your pile of steaks is now so high that it hides the sun. I cannot see the face of my beloved. The handful of grain that could have saved a starving child in Uganda was used instead to produce the liquor that you pour on the mountain of steaks while blood is being poured on our planet. How can I solve my problems if I keep thinking about my brother? The day I get rid of my heart, I assure you, that will be the day of my victory.
This was written after I [Thich Nhat Hanh] met a number of people who sincerely wanted to do something for their brothers and sisters in the world, but were so busy with daily things – like eating steak or drinking wine – that they were not able to do anything even for their brothers and sisters right around them, not to mention those in the Third World.