I hope this post will end up making sense by the time I'm through. I composed the outline while nursing Bean at 2:00 a.m., and am now trying to flesh it out to the sounds of Jimmy Neutron in the not-so-far-away background. I usually like having a house on the small side, but the office in the same room with the only t.v. in the house means that I keep getting distracted by stupid Bratz commercials and Barbie pony fairy snack oven thingies being advertised to Sister. She's only allowed to watch cartoons on weekends, I swear.
Sister's last soccer game of the season was yesterday, I'm happy to say. Husband and I spent it on the sidelines chatting with one of the other moms, who also happens to be Sister's Brownie troop co-leader. I really like her a lot. She's also a stay-at-home mom-- she has triplets!--and is a former nurse. She and her husband, an emergency room doctor, make far more money than we do, live in a much bigger house in a much swanker neighborhood. I thought about being intimidated by this when we first met, but really she's so unassuming and fun to talk to and not at all caught up in the trappings of their life that it's a non-issue.
Anyhow, we all sat around talking and intermittently cheering on the girls. The topic was the vast amount of suffering in the world--children starving, tsunamis wiping out whole cities, earthquakes killing thousands--and how overwhelming it can be to consider it all. Triplets' Mom was saying they'd just gotten a new puppy for the kids and she'd gone to the local yuppie dog supply store and just felt embarrassed when confronted by thousands of dollars worth of doggie treat inventory. It is pretty warped when you really step outside of yourself to see it, isn't it? I mean, as much as we all love our doggies...? Husband told a story about when he was growing up in Atlanta, there was an older man in his neighborhood who had adopted a patch of no-man's-land at the top of the block. It was just a roughly 10 X 12-foot piece of land that would otherwise not be taken care of. This man would wheel his lawn mower up the street and mow the patch, weed it, and generally tidy it up. Husband later realized it was perhaps the sanest response possible to all the craziness out there. He imagined the man thinking something like: "I don't care what happens out there. This patch WILL BE MOWED AND WEEDED AND CLEANED UP." Triplets' Mom added, "Yeah, and no genocide on THIS patch! Not on MY watch!" We laughed a little, but it was something to think about.
You can't throw money towards every tragedy that comes up on the news--or at least we can't. And it really can put you into numbing emotional overload to really consider all there is out there wrong with the world. We middle-class Americans have got it damn good, so what do we do when confronted with famine, with homelessness, with a deteriorating ozone layer? Sell everything and join the Peace Corps? Become a missionary? Another Mother Theresa? Most of us aren't going to go to those extremes, let's face it, but there's a middle ground between those options and just shutting down and doing nothing. Maybe it really is best to pick one small thing and focus on it. Acquire a sort of tunnel vision even, and do that one thing as best you can. The idea appeals to me and I'm going to spend some time trying to figure out that one thing I can do well. Knowing me, it will probably be something close to home, something in my community. But human suffering is human suffering no matter where you find it. It's crystal clear to me these days that I've got so much. For once in my life, I've also got some time on my hands to do something to help.