Friday night we said a prayer as a family for a man somewhere in Ontario who had called in the CBC Radio program Ontario Today and shared a story about his little boy’s love for lego. I could tell where the conversation was going the moment his call was put through, he was quietly crying, trying hard to be stoic, but the pain was palpable. Within moments, suspicions were confirmed and he shared that his little boy died while waiting for an organ donation. All three of us sat in the car, each gaining a different level of understanding about the enormity of what had been shared, but all comprehending this was big and sad. My son broke the silence and said “he is so sad, Mama, his boy died”, my daughter with tears in her eyes said “mummy, we should pray for him”, so we did, right there, through streaming tears in my eyes en route to get my own little boy winter boots, and again at the dinner table by candle light.
I try not to shield my children from the news or what can happen in the world, though I do give information in developmentally appropriate ways. I think too many children grow up disconnected from the village that is the world. And that means as adults they’ll fail to see that other people’s suffering is our suffering too. Having also known a lot of children who are adopted, I began to see a trend of wanting to shield them, perhaps because of their life experiences prior to adoption and the grief they will carry. And while I think it comes from a good place, I see the sense of entitlement that often follows and know that isn’t right for our family as it won’t set my children on a path of knowing they have a voice, they can take a stand, they can help people, they have love to give and love to receive and they can change a life, or two, along the way. So we tackle the news in big ways and small. We tend to not talk not about “bad people” but situations, poor choices, prejudices, badly held beliefs, mental illness’, stress, poverty and that unkindness has sometimes lifelong consequences. Sometimes it really isn’t possible to explain why something happened, but I try my best.
Situations in the world have made us have to have a lot of these conversations this month. The horrific school shooting, the father crying on the radio, the woman in India my children heard was “beat up”. Most of the time the details haven’t really mattered, though I do answer questions when asked. What has mattered to them is that someone is hurting, someone has died and we should help them. I love that they believe, no, they know, in every situation we can do something to help. They are resolute that thinking about the people, praying for them, talking about them, sending letters or cards, making the opposite choice (for example to never be violent), sending money to helpers and never forgetting them, will help. That the world will be a better place. And yet again, they have taught me something. There is no room for that easy to creep in apathy, that feeling that you can’t do something, because with each generation being raised to be peaceful, loving, kind, non-violent, respectful of people’s bodies (as well as their own), willing to advocate and stand up for others and able to understand vulnerabilities, and challenges, yet are also able to be clear-headed about what needs to be done, we are creating compassion and empathy and anti-oppressive souls. That growth and understanding will be reflected in the policies they are involved in, the way in which they relate to people and the choices they can make themselves, and help others to make too.
I’m pleased my children know about what has happened. I think, in so many ways, the worst thing that can happen after a tragedy is no one knowing, or caring, or acting. The best quote I read this past week was in response to the very very sad news the victim of the gang r*pe from India died, was this: “She is no more. But her struggle must awaken everyone to act”. My mind slowly turned to all those parents in Connecticut and the man on the radio, parents who walked into empty rooms, who looked at their children’s clothes and belongings and have to somehow (how?) come to terms with the fact they are no longer here on earth. And then, it went back to the nurse in London and her last moments, and the 23-year-old beautiful soul in India whose pain makes me physically sick. And I thought “do not be paralyzed by their pain. Stand in peace, but act”. And because my children have shown me “acting” includes big and small (but the common denominator being love for them and sadness at their suffering) I sit here in my home which is surrounded by snow, and light a candle and pray for them. For tomorrow we can think of what more we can do, but for now, I simply continue to feel their pain and find a way to show their lives mattered. Because they did and they do, even to a little newish family of three who didn’t know them.