I woke up Friday last week thinking about my kitchen renovation – plotting color schemes in my mind and re-arranging my kitchen island. And then I thought about how I have gained weight and really should stop indulging in potato chips at night, and going up for just one more helping at dinner time.
But late last week was also when the world was waking up to tragedy. I too saw the image of a Syrian boy washed ashore a Turkish beach. And it really touched me. I saw his face resting peacefully against the sand. His hands tucked into his belly in the same repose my own three year old likes to be in, belly to the earth. But unlike my little one who bounded out of bed early Friday morning to find me in mine, to cuddle with me as we both began to greet our day, this little boy’s father’s arms are empty and missing him and his little life was taken way too soon and unfairly. This image has awaken me. I am changed. I wonder what I can do. I wonder what I have failed to do. I wonder if it’s even ok for me to write this.
As I join the world in watching the terrifying plight of Syrian parents, and the grief-stricken images of this boy’s family, and the many other people around the world who have lost loved ones to war, I have woken up to the privilege I have always known. The sweet corners of comfort that have enveloped me since I took my first cry and woke up in my mother’s arms, enclosed in warmth inside modern medicine, four walls and affluence. I moved around a lot as a child but not because bombs went off next door; we moved as my father found new and fulfilling work, that adequately fed our family of five and sent me off to school each day loved and warm, with the latest backpack on my shoulders and trendy sneakers on my feet.
I live inside a country that bickers about GDP and health care, where parents complain that their kid’s PTA ordered a pizza lunch instead of organic free range chicken on a bed of microgreens. Where people are given space and time to ponder whether the next Prime Minister really means it when he says he’ll slash taxes for the working folk. The truth is, and this isn’t meant to be political, I live in this world of comfort and ease and I have never known problems beyond those of my own health, or known fear beyond heart-stopping moments when my youngest walked away from me (and then I found him). But I don’t want this to be political, but just to say: I recognize too that all of this can be taken away from me, at any moment. That I am lucky, that I am blessed and I need to be thankful, grateful, hug my child tighter at night, whisper I love you to each and every one of my family members, and live my life with purpose. But I need to recognize too, that it could be me. It could be them. It could be my children. My son is three years old too. I didn’t choose this country, or make this life. It was given to me. Can it be taken?
On Friday I couldn’t shake the awful feelings. And at night I climbed in bed beside my three year old to watch him sleep. I pressed my lips against his naked back and watched it rise and fall with life. I cried. In that horrible, helpless way you cry about the evil in the world. In the way that you feel powerless, and yet moved utterly by human experience.
We all need to grieve for the parents around the world who are experiencing the greatest gut-wrenching loss. We all need to open up our hearts to the suffering around us, in Syria, in other countries, in our own countries. We all need a little perspective. We all need to be grateful, to live our lives with purpose, with meaning as though we recognize that we have been given the great gift of waking up each day, the gift of love and of each other and of safety. We all need to love a little bit more. We need to teach our children to love, to embrace difference, to share, to give, to hope.
I donated to Doctors Without Borders because they fund rescue efforts and do amazing work around the world. It’s not much; but it’s something that I could do. I hope in the wake of these world tragedies, in light of the plight of parents who aren’t as lucky as we are, and for the innocent children who don’t deserve to experience hate like this, that you will consider donating too.
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