I have started, and then not finished, this post a hundred times over the past week.
And here I am, starting from scratch – again.
Truthfully, it’s something I’m having difficulty coming to terms with myself. You’ve all heard about it – it’s been all over the news – we’ve all seen the painfully heartbreaking images of small children and their lifeless bodies washed ashore.
The thing is – the Syrian civil war isn’t “news” to me by any means. I wish that I could say that all this time I’ve been actively involved in trying to find practical ways of helping and being of service from a distance; that the tragedies we now regularly see unfolding in Syria, and in several other countries where innocent lives are ruthlessly and abruptly destroyed or ended, impelled me to urgent action a while back; that I find it difficult to sleep at night when I think about the sometimes terrifying world in which I am trying to raise my child.
But somehow, it is easier to do – nothing. To try to think – nothing. To feel – nothing.
When you see images of war-torn, faraway countries, utterly devastated by violence – and then compare it to your comfortable and safe little bubble – it isn’t just hard to believe that we’re living on the same planet, it’s actually easier to pretend, even subconsciously, that it isn’t really happening.
But then you see something that is close to home. A little too close to home. A child, not far from the age of your own child, dressed in an outfit perhaps not too far off from something in your own little one’s perfectly organised closet, hair wet and matted the way your toddler’s hair looks when she’s just had a warm and soothing bath – but this little boy is laying face down on a beach, palms up, body limp. Lifeless.
It hit me, hard. Suddenly it was impossible to pretend that this was happening too far away for me to allow myself to feel something, fully. When we first moved to Singapore, I remember my cousin telling me that once you become a parent, any time you see anything bad happen to a child – whether in reality or fiction, whether it’s right in front of you or happening thousands of miles away – all you will see is your own child in that position. I suddenly understood the full measure of what she meant when I saw these images.
It made me feel physically sick.
And I know that the international response to these images has been just that – now we are all listening a little more attentively, watching a little more carefully, and thinking a little more deeply about what is actually happening. For me, it was always easier to lump everything into the “the world is a horrible place” box and move it to the side, but now I am finding myself thinking about it constantly, and wanting to find out what small things I can do from my cushy little neck of the woods.
One thing that has really warmed my heart is the overwhelming calls to action I’m seeing throughout all of my networks. The drive to do something is astounding – organise donations, raise money, there’s even a baby-wearing group looking to send over used baby carriers! And now that I’ve started looking, started choosing to see, I’m realising that there is actually a lot that can be done from a distance.
As a mother, my heart aches for the mothers of these children, and the countless other children who have been injured, displaced, orphaned, killed as a result of this violence. The world has failed them. It has driven their caregivers to the point of ultimate desperation, where taking such tremendous risks is a better option than staying where they are.
I’m finding myself laying next to my daughter that little bit longer after she falls asleep. Holding her a little bit tighter in my arms and watching her serene expression as she breathes deeply and peacefully. I ask myself how I will teach her why things like this are happening, but more importantly, how I will instill in her a sense of wanting to be of service to her fellow humans; how I will teach her to feel gratitude for every little thing she has, which we routinely take for granted; how I will teach her that just because we see so many heart-wrenching, unthinkable things happening in our world, there is also good in the world – and that she should seek to be a part of that good.
Yes, the world is becoming an increasingly scary place – and yes, it can be overwhelming thinking about the fact that we are raising the next generation which is meant to deal with the repercussions of these tragedies. That’s one of the biggest calls to action for me – that as a mother, I need to educate my children in a way that equips them to be confident, socially aware, internationally-minded and proactive adults that are not just bystanders when something can be done.
I know there’s a lot of criticism (and some praise!) of various governments’ actions with regard to the refugee crisis – and I’m not going to get into that, but I saw this image on several of my friends’ Facebook pages and it was a timely reminder of the fact that I need to see a crisis that is so huge on a global scale, as something that I should try and find a way to contribute towards, however small that contribution may be.