Yes, the disturbing picture of a Syrian boy sleeping between his parents’ graves isn’t real. Actually, the pic is real, in that it exists. We’ve seen it. But the story behind the pic, well, that’s the not real part. Except, as in much of life, it could be, and is. And, it is certainly the reality for many Syrian boys, and girls, and others. Sometimes roles are reversed, and it’s a parent grieving graveside. (My apologies if this triggers pain in my friends with this unthinkable kind of loss.)
The ‘hoax’ part of this disturbs me a bit, because many breathe a collective sigh of relief, “Whew! It’s not true,” releasing us emotionally to go back to our cushioned or somewhat cushioned lives, keeping a certain distance from the devastating realities that exist in Syria, (among other locales) – but it also keeps us from our own proverbial backyards: the places we live, and move, and have our being – and therein lies my interest today.
The place I live, and move, and have my being includes an extraordinarily high rate of child abuse, technically, it’s child neglect, that translates to abuse. Siskiyou county ranks with one of the highest rates of child abuse & neglect in the state of California.
There are also other high rates to contend with here, often resulting in loss to parents and children – and by extension, to our communities: life-threatening economic stressors, harmful addiction (alcohol, hard/prescription drugs, gambling, porn), domestic violence, all resulting in general apathy or loss of hope, that keeps parents sidelined from engaged parenting – or engaged life.
Sometimes I think it’s relatively easier to see devastating pictures and grieve from afar – we’re still somewhat removed from the reality, and absolved from any sense of responsibility.
So, while we could, (and should), consider the needs of far-reaching children and parents across the globe, what of our own, whose emotionally moving pictures you don’t see? But, maybe you do? Maybe pics show up as in our news and FB feeds as desperate and grievous actions in our communities?
I just read this in a FB meme: “Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn, and students who aren’t, come to school to be loved,” attributed to Nicholas A. Ferroni. Deficits show up. And this is kind of what I’m getting at – it’s at least part of the picture. It seems I have an abundance of nurses and teachers in my life, thus, I’m aware of the impact of parents who struggle with the above-mentioned life-sucking challenges. Parents love their children, I have no doubt, but it’s these life stressors that often get in the way, and make living in the day to day – and then the future – a challenge.
Children who head to school without breakfast – or packed lunch (and not all schools provide lunch). Children who don’t have sufficient/clean clothing. Children who aren’t able to sleep because parents partying late into the night. Children who come home without a snack – and, in many cases, dinner, left to fend for themselves on a regular basis. I’m sure you could name others. And I’m not even referencing ideal here, i.e., nutrient dense. I’m talking about a connected, caring sense of family that is needful for life success – even if it’s sitting around a table with Taco Bell, that is better than a kid (or a parent), who is sitting alone wondering how to make the basics of life appear.
But I’m not here to beat parents up. I am one. And, at the end of my tour of duty, (at least the first 18 years of each child’s life), I will have parented for 40 years. Crazy. I get the struggles; I’ve had many less-than-stellar moments. Life has given me many opportunities to turn right when I turned left, and I had to find a way to rebuild for self-preservation and survival – for me, but also for my kids – but I had support, family, friends and a village to prop me up til I could stand on my own again.
Whether it was a divorce and a move, a season of yelling too much (even though I had the tools to know better), worry and anxiety that made me a wicked helicopter mom, homeschooling with too-high expectations to prove ourselves, too-often McDonald’s for lunch (sorry first two offspring), or losing a house in the recent crash and forcing the leaving of friends behind, way too much time between dental visits because of no insurance – yes, I’ve had moments of less-than-fabulous mommying. So, I’m not here as an icon of parenting perfection. But, I hope, between the crazy, my children know they are deeply loved.
Refocusing on the Syrian boy between his not-dead parents: image of devastating loss, no doubt. But what of our own kids, who hang out with kids in need of noticing? Or don’t hang out with them, because they’ve been relegated to social outcast status. True, you can’t fix other parents – or their kids. But I think we can mitigate at least some of the absence, hopelessness, and life-havoc if we intentionally seek to welcome others – even those who don’t fit our typical social preference profile.
When we strengthen a parent, we strengthen a child, a family – and a community. (That’s you and me folks.) And it just takes making oneself available. We may not see the fruit of our labors, at least not in the immediate, or in a timeframe we’d like, but we just keep doing the next right thing: making deposits into a life that matters.
So, yes, the pic isn’t real; a photographer didn’t just stumble into this deeply moving pic about a boy and the death of his parents. It was art, and staged. And we could say the same of so many of the movies we watch, or the historical fiction we read: they’re only fictional characters, it’s not real. Except, it is, for many others unnamed. Because, even if it is not true, it’s still true.
Morning musing brought to you by Italian Roast and gingersnaps. And remember, it’s only a perspective, just a slice of what could be a much larger and meaningful conversation. May you have found a nugget the speaks life to you – so that you can (continue) to bring life to others.