There’s a documentary video about Thich Nhat Hanh, called “Peace Is Every Step.” In it, the Zen master tells a story about an American veteran of the Vietnam war (there are a lot of Vietnam veterans in this video). The former soldier suffers a lot because of terrible things he did during the war. One memory in particular is tormenting this Vietnam vet — the image of five children who died because of his actions. He cannot get the five children out of his mind, more than 20 years later.
Thich Nhat Hanh told him that many children die every day. Some die because of the lack of one single pill. Some die from hunger. You could save five children, he told the former soldier. Why suffer so much about children who have already died, when instead, you could save children who are alive today?
You cannot bring back those five children from many years ago. They are dead. That is in the past.
But you can do something today. Right now. You can make a difference in the lives of other people. And if you did, you would lessen your own suffering as well.