Tag Archiv: children
photo by nasirkhan, compliments of morguefile.com
My head is full of refugees. What will come of it, I don’t know. They have been sitting on my heart growing heavier. With public sympathies engaged for the moment, I can’t stop thinking that now is the time to do more.
One of the little oddities of me is the terror worry that occurs any time I cross a national border without my children. The shape of my fear is that something will happen and I will be unable to get back. My head fills with elaborate scenes of the end of life as we know it. Me, trying to find north, walking and walking, whispering over and over again to my children (who cannot hear me) not to give up. I am coming. If I am breathing, I will be coming.
I’m not sure why this happens. I read a lot of WWII stories growing up. Maybe a disproportionate part of my psyche is filled with the possibility that life can change radically in a very short space of time. Whatever it is, enough of me knows that the current likelihood of being separated from my home and family is small., So far, I can still get out the door with reminders to myself that I live in an affluent nation at peace.
In contrast to my reality, the UN Refugee Agency reports that there are more displaced persons in the world today than at any time in history. Numbers are expected to rise. In fact, Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum. The numbers beg for response. Refugees are always pouring over borders in far away places. But this is different. The numbers stare off the page in the faces of families and children. What can we do?
Corrie Ten Boom, my life time heroine comes to mind. A clock maker, quietly taking Jewish refugees into her home for hiding until they could be transported to safety. But how can I follow her lead when the refugees aren’t in my yard? What do I even have to offer?
These are my questions and complaints to God. It’s not the pictures circulating in the media (most of which I haven’t seen); it’s the pictures in my head. I list ideas for God of how I might help followed by all the reasons why they won’t work. There is great frustration in having a burden laid on one’s heart about which one feels hopelessly ill-equipped to do very much.
I sat down to write today’s post with the wry comment to God, that it would be hard to write since all I could think about was the refugee crisis, but I obviously couldn’t write about that.
To which either my head or the stubbornly quiet God of my seeking said, Why not?
I started to give the reasons then realized there weren’t any. I don’t have the answers, but neither does anybody else. There is no single simple solution to the refugee crisis, but perhaps because it has no choice, the world is at least awakening. The more people who hear the cries of the displaced, the better. I don’t have the answers, but I have questions nagging at my insides.
Who is our neighbor? What can be done, here, now, in our time? What would we here be pleading and hoping for, if it was our land torn by civil war, and devoid of justice, safety, and access to basic resources? What would we pray, if instead of a future, we could offer our children only conflict, chaos, and despair? How might we become part of the answer to those same prayers rising now from other lips?
Slaying Goliath, by Peter Paul Rubens. 1616.
Hate is a scary thing. I don’t know if most people are afraid of it, but I am. Hate hangs heavy in dark places like a towel sopping wet on the line. Seemingly like Thompson’s hound of heaven, hate haunts down the narrow back alleys. Waits to find us unawares. Stalks us with intent.
To escape it is no small feat. Victory is rarely won in a single battle. Hatred is a tempting response to hatred. Many of us, therefore, know both sides of the monster rather better than we wished.
Like love, there are lesser forms of hate. One of my children “hates” one of their siblings right now. Most everything said sibling does is cause for disgust. I don’t think child A hates child B. I think they love them but feel so terribly insecure about themselves that they need to put another person down. It isn’t hate yet, but unchecked it has the seeds to grow a bumper crop.
I listened once to a mother explain to me how strongly she felt about violence. She could not tolerate it to the extent that were someone to enter her home, she could not imagine attacking them to protect her children. I, on the other hand, can imagine without any effort attempts to inflict as much bodily harm on said intruder as possible with whatever frying pan, steak knife, or cat was handy. This may reflect primordial instinct and a parent’s duty to protect (I think it does) but in my case at least, even the idea of this kind of danger taps into a rage against threat that is not all good.
Most of us have our own supply of hate. The never ending news feeds encourage it’s close cousin, terror. In our rising fear we borrow liberally from a great bank of hate. With so much danger all around, hate (like State Farm insurance) is something we can never have too much of.
The following occurred in my presence. I share because it begs the question.
A boy not mine. Deeply wounded. Deeply troubled.
A girl. Smaller. Younger. Upset because the boy has called her an idiot.
Me. Sighing. Boy breathes rage. Nothing can be done but this is not the time to say that.
Say something loving, I offer, not at all sure of myself.
The girl hesitates the walks to the boy.
You hurt my feelings, she said softly.
What? interrupted the boy loudly.
You hurt my feelings, she said. But I forgive you.
Ok, said the boy.
The girl walked away. The boy followed her.
Hey, he said. He tapped her on the shoulder. Hey, what did I do that hurt your feelings?
You called me an idiot, she said.
For a second he looked confused. Then he tapped her on the shoulder again.
Hey, he said. I’m sorry I said that. Then he followed her across the room and said sorry two more times. For the rest of the class, there was no rage.
A Young Scholar, painted by Jean-Honore Fragonard. 1778.
I like to remember brave deeds. Grade six friends who forgot their bus notes could count on me to pen their permissions and sign their parent’s names. When the burly book keepers from a Jello Wrestling fundraiser tried to fudge the numbers, my 17 year old self was more than happy to take them to task while our math intimidated adult supervisor fretted. I am comfortable questioning immigration officials, security personnel, and government employees.
I don’t remember many instances where people described me as fearful. I remember more the feeling of being jostled forward with, “send Michelle, she’s not afraid,” in my ears. The day I grabbed my brother and kept him firmly between me and the growling dog, no one was there to see. But No-Criticism-Lent (Reduced-Criticism Lent might be more accurate) isn’t lying. I am afraid.
I went into Lent thinking I needed it because I walked around with inappropriate levels of grumpiness about other people’s foibles. Considering fear in the equation is like realizing I’ve been navigating the kitchen with a paper bag on my head. My eyes are adjusting to the super bright. I’m still taking in the increased definition in shapes and the nuances of color.
It is amazing to me how the patterns we develop as children shape our adult responses. Sometimes when I think I am keeping my own children safe, I am really assuring the child I once was that she is safe. The insight doesn’t give me a pass on criticizing, it gives me the chance to do something about the fear that’s behind it.
Which is scary.
“Naked revelation,” I wrote yesterday, “I criticize because I am afraid. . . If no one messes up, everything will be ok, nothing will fall apart, and no one will get hurt.” The statement implies that my criticism does not actually save me from what I am afraid of. In other words, I realized that fear drives me, and then I realized my go-to coping mechanism is useless. My footing would be more sure on the melting ice floating around on our pond right now. I guess the best thing about having grey hair, is that you can feel all that slipping and wait it out. Wet boots, cold feet, soggy pants maybe, but you make it to something solid and go on in to get warm.
I’m afraid of things falling apart. I don’t have the power to make myself and everybody else do it right (so that bad things never happen). But it’s ok. The fear of the child who was me can be gently diffused. The future is uncertain and uncontrollable. Instead of tearing down the metaphorical neighbors who walk on my yard, I can lean into loving them. It will be a work in progress, but if the world starts crumbling on account of it, maybe we can face it together.
Out there somewhere is a man who was once a boy. A particular boy who helped to save me.
But what did I do? he might ask?
Nothing. You were you.
I couldn’t have been more than 21 when I first met Josh. He was a baby: settled, happy, content, and unconcerned about anything beyond the present moment. Josh was easy to please. When he wasn’t pulling himself up to stand on top of his cousin’s head, we got on very well.
If I had to pick a word to describe myself then, I would go with tormented. By day I put one foot in front of the other as best I could. I washed lettuce in large sinks for hundreds of people. Delivery from this life by car accident seemed unlikely (as I rarely had reason to go near a road) but it didn’t stop me from wishing. Sleep was nightmares and more nightmares or the agony of days that would not end, and tears that would not come. Along the way, I was asked to work in childcare. I shared responsibility for six children during the morning (four three year olds and two babies). In the afternoon, I took three boys for naptime routines and quieter playing. One of these was Josh.
While I sagged in my insides feeling hopeless, my outsides condemned my failure to sleep, elude nightmares, and feel joy as proof of my basic worthlessness as a human being. Self hatred was justified more every day that I failed to be happy. I tried, but I failed to feel much beyond numb.
The exception was when I was with the children. My dysfunction had to be set aside if it was circle time. There were stories to be told and songs to be sung. We sang, The Itsy Bitsy Spider as dainty as you please, then we picked up pot lids, smashed them for all we were worth and sang verse two, “The Big Fat Spider.” (An excellent and quickly beloved variation.)
My three year olds tucked in, I would carry Josh to the rocking chair every afternoon. I advised the state of my soul to wait until the middle of the night to haunt me, Josh had a back to be patted just now. Every day I rocked him to sleep and stayed a little longer than I needed to, singing softly and gently holding something good.
Salvation rarely comes quickly in these places. But it comes.
What would you do, I wondered one night, if someone were to come in and try to hurt Josh?
I would die for him, said my thoughts. As soon as I said it, I knew that it was true.
A little light broke through. If I would die for a baby that wasn’t even mine, then there was something good in me. If there was something good in me, then there was hope.
Little windows to all that is meant to be. Oh the children that lead us.