In refugee camps around the world, I met people who were gone. They were still walking around but had lost so much that they were unable to claim any sort of identity. Others I met found who they truly were, and they generally found it through service to others. They became teachers when there was no school, books or pencils.
I was really bored, pretty antisocial, and not much of a joiner, and people thought that was a problem. I hated high school. In a way, it was good... I think, for a writer, it's good to be comfortable with being on the outside.
When the Taliban took over in 1996, the news of their crimes hit the Toronto papers. As a feminist and as an anti-war activist, I heard about what was happening to women, and I wanted to do something to support those folks.
You have to see the human being in the enemy. If there is potential for change, there is still hope.
While the war in Iraq was raging, I spent some time in neighbouring Jordan, meeting with Iraqi refugees who fled their country to try to find some place of safety. I interviewed many families about what had happened to them and what they did as a result.
We never know who we are going to be until we are tested, but perhaps we can test ourselves without going to the extremes of war. Perhaps we can be kinder now, live with less now, reach out to others now - and build an inner reserve of a strong identity that will hold us up even when everything else falls away.
One of the things that has really hit home for me is that the world is how we decide it is going to be. Very few things just happen. They grow out of history, and they grow out of the present, and the more we can get a sense of how our actions lead into other actions in the future, hopefully we'll learn to make better decisions.