Wednesday, October 6, 2010


I feel I post too rarely in some senses, and too much in others. I spend free time half composing blog posts that I mean to write, milestones I wish to record, loving words about my family, humorous entries about our life together, and simple reflections about the world and people around me.

Why do I so often get bogged down with internal thought? And why do I write about it so much?

I suppose the obvious answer is that I'm not really speaking to anyone here. Perhaps people are reading, perhaps not, but I'm not actively engaging in a dialogue and I'm free to express myself and work through the issues swimming around in my head.

That said, lately I've been really, really affected by awareness.

Oh, being aware of your surroundings is a good thing. You need to know if there are cars coming down the street as you prepare to cross, you need to know if there's food in the fridge before heading to the store, you need to know where your kids are playing and what dangers might be present in each room, etc.

But I'm talking about a more global awareness. A constant, unending awareness of the horrors of this world at large. An awareness of things so painful, so large, that I find myself being brought to tears in random situations.

Things just... strike me. And they've been striking me for almost 3 years, since we first traveled to Ethiopia and actually saw what another part of the world truly looks like.

I suppose it's only natural that those of us who are pretty well off in this world aren't bogged down by the problems the rest of this world faces. Oh, sure, we talk about war and poverty and starvation. We discuss politics and victims, injustice and solutions, the whys and the hows and the what ifs and even sometimes the what is's.

But what happens when someone becomes truly aware? What happens when a person actually visits a third world nation and sees the people living so differently from them? What happens when they adopt that culture, if only a little bit, perhaps by adopting a child or taking a spouse or simply accepting the culture, at least partially, as their own? What happens when the events happening in the rest of the world actually start to matter to them more than just in passing?

What happens when awareness strikes?

I'm not the most aware of people, admittedly. Seriously, I walk into walls sometimes, totally phase out in conversations, and may not notice my husband is in the room until he gives me a kiss and scares the bejeesus out of me.

But lately this awareness, this global awareness, has been really affecting me.

A few days ago Nik and I sat peacefully watching our boys play in a children's museum in Asheville. It was early and the museum was empty, and they had the area all to themselves. As they sat there, happily playing with the bright and cheery toys all around them, moving from one to the other at will, it struck me...

How many children don't have toys? How many don't have a clean floor to sit on? How many don't have loving parents to watch over them and keep them safe? How many will never even hear or a museum let alone get the chance to be in one? How many opportunities were our boys taking advantage of at that very second without even thinking about it? How many children in this world would be grateful to not have to count their blessings if only for a day?

I spoke to Nik a bit about it, about how I wish all children had what ours have. Safe places, happy toys, loving parents, health care, abundant food, clean water, soft beds, clothes that fit, warm baths, etc. We are so blessed, they are so blessed. And they don't even know it. In many ways, I don't WANT them to know it. I like that they take their happy life as a given, that they aren't bogged down by the thought of "what if I lived in X country" or "why aren't they able to live like this?" Yes, at some point they'll need to know, and it'll be good for them to know, but for right now...

It struck me again yesterday afternoon. We were at the mall after nap and P and I were sharing our candy. P always wants to bring 2 quarters so we can each have candy. Oh, candy makes his world go round!

We were sitting on a bench as Ambrose played in their indoor playground. P would pop a Jelly Belly in his mouth, chew, then blow the air on me so I could sniff and tell him what flavor it was. It was a silly game and we were both laughing and having a blast.

But again, it struck me.

How many children in this world will ever have the opportunity to be so care free? How many will even see candy, let alone have regular access to such a luxury? How many parents will be afforded the time to play such games?

It hurt my heart, to know that something so insignificant that we take for granted is unattainable by so many....

And again, today. I arrived to pick P up from preschool and got to spend some time watching him run and play with his friends. He'd greeted me with a "hey mom!" as soon as he saw me but didn't bother to stop playing. Why should he? He knows he'll see me again. I'm a constant now. Ambrose happily played in the sandbox and went down a slide, experiencing and environment that was both sensory rich as well as safe and clean. Paxton got to run with his friends, then was able to break away when it was time to go with little more than a pout. He knows he'll be back tomorrow. He was happy to tell me about his day in school. He is proud to be learning.

And how many children his age won't have access to preschool? How many children won't have access to any school at all? How many won't ever learn to read or write? How many will struggle for years or for life due to detriments in early education? How many parents simply do not have the resources to school their children, either in or out of home? How many children will go without an education at even the most basic level?

And how many truly do not know if they'll ever see their parents again? How many have access to a diverse group of children that they'll see consistently as friends? How many will have the internal knowledge embedded at such an early age that we can speak different languages and have different skin and hair but that we are all friends?

How many will have access to a clean playground? Safe toys? How many children are stuck in a warzone and cannot play outside? How many live in areas with heightened kidnapping rates?

In the car I felt my throat tighten as I listened to my boys play in the backseat while P ate lunch. He didn't finish his sandwich (organic ingredients, freshly and lovingly made by a living mother, waiting for him in the car every day). He said he was full from snack, which he described in detail. He had a full belly. He can pick and choose food. He doesn't have to eat every scrap that comes along.

We cuddled in for bed, the baby eating at my breast (no worries about supply since I have access to domperidone, pumps, donor milk, and formula). P chose The Lorax, his new favorite out of his small but growing library of kids books, of which we read him several a day to the point that he's memorizing them.

I choked up on one of the ending phrases...

"Unless someone like you
cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing's going to get better,
It's not."

And awareness smacked me head on yet again...

As I sit hear in my cozy home eating a good lunch and typing on the internet...

How many children are dying of starvation?
How many children are desperately seeking a parent?
How many are hiding from weather? From war? From abuse?
How many are ill and untreated because of lack of resources?
How many are living on the streets?
How many are being violated, harmed, wounded at this very moment?
How many are suffering?

And the biggest question for me...

What on Earth can I do about it?

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