Just the other morning, I was settling down to work and sipping my first cup of hot tea. My head was still in a bit of a fog from the three-day weekend and my thoughts were somewhat preoccupied by the thought of the workers that were in my home repairing my water-damaged ceiling. I had guests coming into town and my mind started listing all the things I needed to have done in time for their arrival.
In my absent mindedness, I grabbed my cell phone and started flipping through my Facebook feed as I sometimes do. Most days, my mind doesn’t read close enough for context. My Facebook feed is merely a placeholder that keeps my hands busy while my brain thinks of other things. But on this morning, while my mind was thinking about life stresses and the woes of being back at work instead of at the pool with Holland, my eyes stumbled across a picture of a man on a boat cradling a young child. I follow Think Progress on Facebook and this story, was one of many on my feed that morning. I clicked over to read the full story, suddenly curious as to why this man was cradling this baby, but I was simply not prepared.
After reading just the first few sentences of the story I realized that the child in the photo was dead… a refugee lost in the Mediterranean Sea. My heart leap into my throat and my inner voice screamed: “Hurry! Close out of this! It is too sad!!!” Fighting the urge, I didn’t. Instead, I scrolled back up and stared harder at the photo. The child’s tiny hands were clasped, his eyes closed. He could easily be mistaken for sleeping but he was not. In a way, he reminded me of my own Holland. Soft skin and softer features… tiny perfection with so much potential. As I moved to studying the man holding him — a rescuer that was simply too late — my heart officially shattered.
I found myself wondering where this baby’s mother was… did she survive? If she did, does she know that her precious son did not? I found myself imaging how tightly she must have clung to him in those waters if she was there. Were they cold? Scared? At what point did she know it was the end? Was the child crying? I found myself wondering if she was one of many mothers that could not afford passage for themselves so they made the ultimate sacrifice and sent their children away in hopes of a better life. If that was the case, the child perished without his mother by his side and somehow, that made the situation even more horrifying to me. My mind was quickly descending into a deep, dark place. I stared at the photo and found myself crying. I was crying for that boy. I was crying for all the children like him. I was crying for the mothers and fathers that lost them. I cried for the families ripped apart by war, famine, disease.
After awhile, I was able to find some composure and I proceeded to read the rest of the story… Think Progress did a good job of summarizing the horrifying situation people are finding themselves in on the Mediterranean Sea. It truly is gut wrenching. The options are limited; Stay in your homelands to starve or be killed or flee only to face closed borders, hunger, and death.
My biggest worry (most days) is exactly how much time I’ll have with Holland in between picking her up from daycare and her bedtime. And while over the last nearly 8 months I have worried about her sleep patterns, an occasional fever, and a bump or bruise here or there, I have never once had to worry about starvation or death. I am forever grateful those choices are not my reality. Still, I do not want my lack of experience to turn into a lack of empathy… of compassion.
I am lucky. You are lucky. Our children will grow up playing tag and learning to dive in neighborhood pools instead of fleeing across borders or swimming for their lives. We are blessed. But that blessing obligates us to open our eyes, see the rest of the world, and give a voice to the voiceless.
My soul tells me that the good in this world far outweighs the bad. My faith tells me that there justice and righteousness and more importantly, a reason, for everything. When I looked at that photo, I did not see a reason. I did not see righteousness or justice. I did see however, a baby that deserves to have my attention. And yours.
I don’t know the solution. But I know it starts with acknowledging an obligation to help.
I have an obligation. You have an obligation. We all do.