Friday, February 15, 2008

The View from the Middle of the Road

Have you ever wondered what is the worst affliction in our society today? Is it the evils of terrorists? The stories in the news of infanticide? Famines and war? There is something I feel is much more pervasive in our lives. It has stained us as we look at the world through its lens.

Indifference and mediocrity.

When you watch the news at night, and see the horrors of the war in Afghanistan, or news of fathers and mothers killing their children, what do you do? You hear it, but it doesn’t really affect you. It is only a factoid from TV; just something that happens in this world. How many years now have certain places taken up residence in the vocabulary of newscasters: Gaza Strip, Jerusalem, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia. What have we as individuals actually done? Is there really anything that we can do?
Yes, of course. I don’t think that we can single-handedly stop violence, or the hunger in the world, but we can drop our feelings of indifference, and sense of mediocrity. We can tune in to this world, see that we are all connected and all the same. Since I have become a mother, this has never seemed clearer. I am not disparaging those of you who are not mothers, but ask any mother you know. You simply cannot look at the world without your child in it.

I made the “mistake” one day of watching one of those World Vision shows. Where the producers seem to have chosen the worst case scenarios and made families look as pitiful as possible. When I realized suddenly, that it was simply a picture of a mother holding her baby son, the same size as my (at the time) 3 month old. Except this boy was 18 months old and dying of hunger.
Looking in her eyes, I saw that she knew he son would die and she knew she could not stop it. I looked immediately into the eyes of my own son and desperately tried to imagine what must be going through her mind. She had carried this child within in her for 9 months, feeling his kicks and hiccups. She had laboured for hours giving birth with no drugs. She had held her wet, screaming child to her breast and perhaps nursed him. She saw his first smile and felt his fingers curl around hers. And now she would watch him die slowly. Creep away from her as his frail little body gave out on him.
I could no longer feel indifference. I felt this mother's pain and knew that we were the same. We had the same hopes and dreams for our sons, and hers would not be realized. I could not continue about my petty business for the day until I, too, had mourned for the loss of her son.

What is the cure?
Compassion.
We have lost our compassion in this global community we live in. We watch TV, as though it is only a picture, when, we should be considering each image as a reflection of life. It is one thing to see the effect of war and famine in our world. It is another to smell the acidic smoke from burning buildings or feel the touch of flies on your face from infested water. We need to regain compassion that we have lost. Reach out to the suffering and not assume that others will. Give until we know the pain that they feel. Go out on limbs to rescue the lost. Not fear to let our voice and our single voice alone be heard.

They came for the Communists, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a Communist;
They came for the Socialists, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a Socialist;
They came for the labor leaders, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a labor leader;
They came for the Jews, and I
didn't object - For I wasn't a Jew;
Then they came for me - And there
was no one left to object.

Martin Niemoller, German Protestant
Pastor, 1892-1984

2 comments:

Cate said...

I agree wholeheartedly. We have become a complacent society.

Angela WD said...

You sure have pointed to a painful reality. The other reality is that there are so many things to care about, many people become overwhelmed and close their eyes.

My husband works as a Ministry Director for a large church, and daily people come to him for advice on where to volunteer their time and talents. He asks them, "When you look out into the world, what breaks your heart? What type of injustice makes you most angry? Focus your efforts there."