I can’t watch the news anymore. Or read a newspaper. Or have an intelligent discussion about the topic of war. I cannot hold my tongue when I see a mommy or a daddy tug a little too hard on a child’s arm at Wal-Mart and I will risk being accused of a being a pervert if I see a child who looks like a hug could brighten their little life even for just a moment. I am now a mother and have realized how deeply and intricately this gift, though sometimes a curse, weaves through the nooks and crannies of your being. There is no question that I could quite possibly be the biggest idiot on the planet concerning current events mainly because it is never quiet long enough in my household to hear the complete coverage of any news story so it’s a bit like playing the game of telephone – I only pick up bits and pieces of a story and before I know it, I could cover the beat at the “National Enquirer” with just a little bit of truth to said story. Secondly, and probably the main reason why I can’t tune in, is that I just simply cannot take it. I melt when I hear stories of 14 year olds shot and killed for no reason other than the fact that they were either in the wrong place at the wrong time or were so lost and lonely that they looked to violent street gangs to be their family. I can’t help but conjure the image of the now-deceased 14 (14!!) year old as a baby being fed his first round of vegetables or watching him roll over for the first time. I picture the mother who might have played “This Little Piggy” with his chubby, tiny toes and laughed as her little one let out the giggle that is absolutely the most wonderful sound on the planet. I realize that for many of these tragic cases there may not have been a mommy or a daddy who adored and treasured that child in the way I do my own but I have to believe that the biological response that many, and I would venture to say most, of us feel is present more often than not. I am not so naive that I think all children are raised in loving and healthy environments but my dream is that they are and now there is a shattered mommy or daddy who grieves the broken dream of a life that was just too darn short. If there is no one grieving for them, I do. Every sad case is someone’s son or daughter and by my own personal definition of a mommy this, in my own roundabout way, makes them mine as well. I once read that we as mothers have not just a responsibility of raising our own children but every child on the planet as well. When I first stumbled across this passage, I had to reread it several times to be sure I was understanding the author’s message correctly as how could I possibly have an impact on a child being raised in tribal Africa? My favorite author, Anne Lamott, wrote a book about writing entitled Bird by Bird. She explains that she came to the title after watching her father, who was also a writer, attempt to assist her brother, who had procrastinated on doing a school project on birds until the night before it was due. The said brother sat at the kitchen table with books and notes spread all around him and was utterly overwhelmed and frustrated – he had no idea where to begin because the task was just too daunting. Anne’s father simply said, “Son, you just take it bird by bird.” What a great idiom for our lives – if we focus on impacting child by child, then maybe, just maybe this chain of goodwill could reach a child in tribal Africa. Quite possibly there is some truth to the cliche statement that one person truly can make a difference and it all starts with the simple emotion of compassion. When one becomes pregnant, no one mentions that you will soon release your heart to the outside of your body where it will stay for the rest of your life. I can’t watch the news or read a newspaper because I value that person’s life in a way I could not possibly begin to fathom until I had given a life of my own. I am certain this is the reason that police officers instruct children to look for another mommy or daddy in a store who has children if they were to become lost because that person will not leave the lost child until his or her parents are found. We do this because we know how scared our own children would be if they were to become lost and we want to alleviate some of that child’s anxiety while at the same time making sure that he or she is safe. I am sure there are childless people who would do the same thing for a lost child which brings me to wonder “could other people reach this level of compassion without becoming a mother”? Most likely, however, this is what did it for me. This is what sealed the deal and made me a card-carrying member of the “weeper’s club”. I shed tears for the broken hearts, for the hurt feelings, for the lives cut too short, for the children living in violence and hate every day. I long to have the resources to build a home large enough to house the unloved children, the ones whose photos are not on anyone’s desk or bureau or whose artwork does not adorn any refrigerators, and give them the life their sweet innocent selves deserve. I can’t do it alone but I know I am not alone in my emotions – there is an army of mommy’s out there who believe the same as me. One of my very favorite quotes of all-time was said by the ever-so-wise Helen Keller: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” So true, Helen, so true. And felt they are.
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