So, it’s 2:15pm on a random Saturday afternoon. My 3 year old is asleep on the couch, my 1 year old is asleep in her room. I’m taking a precious moment of me time and painting my nails while watching a documentary about the TV show “Firefly” and skimming Facebook as the topcoat dries.
Earlier today, a friend and animal activist posted something on her page about how people often misunderstand her because she fights so hard for animals that maybe she believes humans don’t need saving, too. She was simply pointing out that she is equally passionate about helping humanity and hoped her friends understood that it’s possible to fight for both sides.
I replied to her post about how I understood that from the perspective I have about parenting and how my advocacy for the rights of children and their core needs, is often met with consternation and frustration from people because, I believe, it requires we DO MORE than what we are doing. We must push forward into a place where peace, true learning and compassionate conflict resolution is the ONLY way to teach our children, not just the “hippy” way that is scorned and met with rolling eyes and mutterings about “entitled children”.
Shortly after my reply, someone then posted a link to a photo. No comment, no words of agreement, just a link. I clicked. I instantly felt as though a spear had pierced through my heart and it flooded with water like a harpooned submarine. I felt that I was drowning for a moment, I felt the weight fill my entire body through my chest, flooding the chambers of my heart, bubbling up into my throat and out my eyes until I realized at last, I was sobbing. Uncontrollable, inexpiable, painful sobbing. The kind that makes your bones hurt. I took in a deep breath, remembering I could do that… and glanced over at my sleeping toddler, and the video screen that displayed my peacefully sleeping baby girl, safe in her room, both blissfully ignorant of the horrors this world has to offer.
The image is below. I’m sure you’ve already glanced down to see it, if not- it’s not easy to look at but I know also, this is not the worst thing out there. Maybe you’ve seen worse, maybe you have lived worse, yourself and horrifying images like this don’t pierce your soul the way it did me. Maybe you’re harder than I am. Maybe not. But I know once you see this, you cannot unsee it and there are so many more like it, so many more moments left undocumented. I think that is what makes it so horrifying to me.
Let’s just imagine for a moment the moments leading to this photo. A young, toddling baby probably no more than 19 months old is somehow removed or separated from her caretaker and begins wandering. Her small eyes soaking in the wonder of the world around her, she’s drawn to the moving, flashing and shining buzz of the busy highway. She may be reveling in her freedom, no one to grab her hand and force her back into safety… maybe she was running… joyfully giggling along. Then suddenly, the joy of independence turns to anxiety as she looks around and sees no one safe. No arms open to take her away from a suddenly frightening place. Her feet hurt from walking on rocks, maybe glass shards and pebbles and the once happy buzzing and invitingly shining vehicles seem to be screeching by her terrifyingly unforgiving as they grow close to her toes and face. She steps back, wobbling and rests upon the meridian, the only stable force she can find and she starts screaming. Screaming for how long? How many minutes, hours… before she finally is exhausted and simply rests her tiny head, once full of adventure, blissful exploration of shapes, colors and sounds… until finally it just stops and her sobbing, left unheard and untended, give way to deep, exhausted sighs until she no longer tries. How long does she sit there, unmoving? What goes through a tiny mind in that amount of terror, loss and pain? How many years of healing will it take for her to regain her faith in humanity, her lust for adventure? How many unspoken days, even years will go by before she is unafraid again?
I see this image, I imagine this scenario and then I look at my 17 month old daughter and I just can’t understand how this could happen.
This image, is but a small piece in a vast puzzle; the kind of puzzle that takes 5 people and two weeks to put together for all it’s complicated and tiny pieces. I doubt that I exaggerate when I say there are billions of tragedies world wide, maybe worse than the fate of this child. Please understand that I do know this harsh reality. I don’t have any illusions that it’s the worst possible thing- I know that just isn’t true. I’m not sure why this one moment seemed to break me so entirely when I know there are worse things, but maybe that was it- How many more moments that are not documented exist for this one photo that does?
I recovered from my feeling flooded by grief for this poor baby by filling that space with the love for my own precious ones, the lives I can make rich and beautiful and I am thankful for the opportunity I have to give them a life in which they don’t and will not EVER feel the kind of terror, sadness and pain that poor little one must have felt.
Life has been hard, of late. We don’t have a lot of money right now. There are bills on hold… waiting to have the extra money to get paid. The husband’s work is unreliable and while he seeks another job, the market sucks and there’s no time for school, so it’s a pretty vicious cycle right now. We get by. We do alright. We have food, we have a house, we have heat and water and diapers and DVD’s and Netflix and blankets and the Internet… and love. We have a whole lot of that, and tons to spare even. Sometimes the kids are hard. They cry and throw things and the 3 year old acts mean for no reason because it’s all new sensory experience, reenacting what he sees on tv or neighborhood kid’s play. Sometimes he hits the cat or bites people, sometimes I yell too much because he does something that scares me like when he decides to climb on the kitchen table to touch the overhead lamp or pulls his sister around by the collar of her shirt because he wants her to come with him into space. Sometimes I don’t sleep well or even at all, because I’m trying to make sure they are comfortable. I don’t get to shower every day and I always have a load of laundry to do, a floor to mop and dirty dishes to wash. There is always more to do and burdens to bear, but we have love.
We have, even on the hardest days, a beautiful life. It’s great to feel grateful, but what’s more than this? I mean, my pouring my heart into my own family… that’s nice, but how does it help this little baby, trapped, leaning on a partition on a main highway in another country where no one seems to care? I can teach my children to be compassionate. I can teach them to never allow this kind of horror. I can teach them… that it’s wrong. But I can sit here, safely in my 72 degree house on a glorious, sunny day in January surrounded by my peaceful, sleeping babes and know this horror is unacceptable- and what good does that do anyone? Does my knowing how horrible it is, fix it? Does my seeing it, feeling so much pain for this tiny spirit help her to feel safe? Warm? Comforted?
No. It doesn’t.
This is one of those displays of “armchair” politics where we are up in arms over a topic we are passionate about, from our safe homes and then eventually, we turn it off and go back to our lives. On the topic of charity and how much we should be willing to give, even when we, ourselves have nothing… A friend of mine told me once, “if it was $30 to feed my family or $30 to the guy on the corner holding a sign… the guy on the corner is screwed because my family needs to eat”. Is it then, even responsible for someone in my position to want to help when we live paycheck to paycheck? If we don’t, who will? Does it do my own children a disservice to give to the less fortunate when we ourselves are in a state of lack?
Well, my friends… that’s why it keeps happening. See, it’s now 2:50 in the afternoon. The husband will be home soon and we have to get ready to leave to go to a party tonight and my life is going to get busy and it’ll all be getting dressed, going potty, finding shoes and maybe I’ll get to do my hair… maybe. And this poor baby in the road will be one of the terrible things I saw on Facebook today, something to share with people, drink in hand, at a party where noone really wants to hear about it because it’s “unpleasant party conversation”.
In the span of only about an hour and a half, I’ve suddenly felt a compulsion to do something. Because I can. Because somewhere in the world is another baby in a hopeless situation, being ignored on a street somewhere left to die and SOME ONE AUGHT TO CARE.
I watch all these shows, Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Batman, we watched Iron Man last night (Yes I’m a geek, I know) and the theme of all our entertainment at his core, is to help those who cannot help themselves. The theme of each and every one is explore, help, save, fix and give love to all who need it and put evil in it’s place. Can we really do the same in our every day lives? Is there a place in our reality for superheroes and monster-fighting friends? Yes, I believe there is.
It has to be more than just “send in your $5 a day and help a child who needs to eat. It has to be more than “give 10% of your income to the church so we may help others”. I say this, while not knowing what the answer is… but with a commitment to find it, share it and honor it.
I cannot stand here and click the “X”, go about my life and just pretend that baby doesn’t exist. I refuse to be one of those blinded people who clearly see her and keep driving. I cannot teach my children to do the same just because we don’t have extra money and have to buy generic groceries.
By watching complacency, a child learns apathy. I wonder, who will truly be moved enough to care, when all the horrors of the world world are simply another YouTube video you can click off and go back to your life?
I’m sorry this is full of more questions than answers… but maybe if enough of us have the same questions, we will all find the answers together.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world” is the grand saying and I believe it’s true. Can we be change? We absolutely can. We can offer hope to the hopeless, love to the lost, we can teach our children to grow the seeds of compassion for all things and we can pray through action, not just through whispering words.
We can help the helpless.