I keep up with the news in bits and snatches. Children who cannot eat, mothers who cannot get medical help for their families, fathers who cannot protect them, these things weigh heavily on me. It does not take much for the enormity of the world’s suffering to overwhelm me. I don’t know the answers to children neglected by people with the physical resources to do better. Everywhere I look, life is about things. People seem worth less every day in the craving to fill emotional spaces with things. When we cannot have things, we have pictures of things. Virtual things. Pretend things. Anything, just not living breathing, uncontrollable love and life.
I won’t belabor the point, but the world troubles me deeply. I feel helpless and alone against forces ridiculously beyond my control. Enter a mouse.
My father was helping us fix a wall on our barn. I sent the boys out to clean out the straw and dirt shoved all along its edge. They came back excited. They’d found a nest of baby mice. Everywhere was ready but they’d left the nest area intact. Too late, the message came and another eager cleaner had finished the job.
I looked but to no avail. Through piles of dust and straw I searched, trying to find something still alive. There was nothing to do but continue. An hour or so later, my father pointed. Four feet away on the stone fence was the mother mouse come back for her babies. I wished there was a way to tell her that was too late. That they were probably already suffocated under one of the piles on the barn floor. Again, there was little to do but continue.
I didn’t see it myself. I went in to make dinner. But my father swears he saw the mouse come back as he worked, dig through the piles and carry living babies off into the bushes. I still don’t know if I believe it but I’ve decided I don’t care. Whether she found them or not, with my own eyes I saw her come looking. The chaos we created in her fragile world couldn’t have seemed any less overwhelming than the chaos of my own. She came back because her babies weren’t where they were supposed to be. She didn’t have a plan for the winter, the fall, or the rest of the week. She noted our gigantic presence, the destruction of her home and worried only about doing what she could do right then to be who she was made to be.
Oh mighty mouse, may your days be long, your food stores full, your babies fat, your nest restored. Smaller than my daughter’s palm, brave mother mouse, you give me much courage and hope.