There really are harsh realities in this life. Most of the time, I try to avoid thinking about them. But every once in a while, one forces its way into my psyche. This week, one forced its way into quite a few other’s as well. No parent should have to outlive their children. Amidst the wonderful, life-affirming rash of new babies being born in recent weeks, one of Leah’s good friends lost her baby only a week after he was born.
A baby who caught a virus that his underdeveloped lungs and heart could not fight off. A set of parents who had to make the decision not to continue life support for their newborn child. A family in complete turmoil, yet still trying to find its way.
I have tried in vain to push this event as far from my mind as possible. It disturbs me to the inner reaches of my soul. I fear that I frustrated Leah in doing this. Her first recourse is to talk about it, and my only responses to her have been little more than monosyllabic.
Now, early in the morning hours after being away from my family for three days, all I can focus on is how I want to hold my children and tell them that nothing will ever harm them. Not if I can do anything about it. But in truth, I know that there is very little I can do. And I learned this morning that I was wrong to push this past week’s saddening event out of my mind.
I listened to a conversation between two men on a plane today. One was telling the other that he didn’t read newspapers in the morning because he felt that filling your mind with violence, war, and killing was not a healthy way to start your day. He knew it was going on, but there was nothing he could do about it, so he just didn’t want to be reminded of what was happening. The one speaking was young, single, and definitely upwardly mobile. I just barely resisted the urge to reach over my seat and slap him.
People suffer. People die. Every day. Sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, husbands, and wives. But if we choose not to read about it, to put it out of our minds and ignore it, where does that leave us? Where would Leah’s friend be if no one came to console her? Our compassion, love, and sympathy for others are what hold us together. And they are what more and more people are lacking in this world.
Now I know that taking a swing at a random guy on an airplane is not the epitome of compassion. Obviously, my compassion for others prevented me from actually hitting him. It wasn’t a good idea on a number of other levels, not the least of which is that I would have been arrested, thus earning me an uncompassionate slap from my wife.
Instead, I reserved the right to laugh out loud if he tripped and fell down. As bad luck would have it, my wish was denied. The man marched right off the plane in his stylish suit. But he had a little addition to his wardrobe.
Shredded newspaper in his pocket.