I'm sitting in my backyard right now, looking up at some spectacular clouds. It's a sunny day, but there is this patchy blanket of cloud cover stretching across the whole sky, as far as I can see, making me feel both incredibly small and tenderly enveloped, like a favorite blanket when we tuck in to bed.
There is a second layer of clouds, lower, moving faster, and I feel like I could almost reach out and touch them, compared to the mother-layer clouds watching from above.
It was kind of a rough morning. Earlier I posted a whine/humorous rant about how my husband doesn't experience the same struggles I experience when it comes to our 8-month old, and how things are just hard for me right now.
Then I opened up Facebook and read news articles and saw the heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, nauseous-inducing images of people's babies washed ashore in the Middle East. I sat on the couch quietly sobbing while my husband watched. I told him what I was reading and seeing, and for the first time in a long time he didn't ask me why I was doing that to myself. You know, watching things that will just break my heart. I do that sometimes. I watched a video on youtube of a man's last day with his dog once, which included watching the dog be put down and carried home. J was perhaps right to ask me then why I was choosing misery, but today, when I told him of the babies, of the parents who were terrified and losing their children, of the children who were terrified and losing their parents, of the babies being washed up on shore... He just looked back at me and said nothing.
What can you say?
The boy in the first picture I saw, he was wearing shoes and shorts and a shirt, just like O does. And he had a round belly, just like O does. And as his body was carried he just looked like he was asleep, being carried to bed, just like O.
He may not have been my baby, but my heart felt torn open and I cried for all the babies, all the parents.
This crisis is enormous. It is too big for me to feel. I literally cannot comprehend it all for fear that I will burst apart. I just cannot.
One of my favorite writers, Glennon of Momastery, writes constantly that "we belong to each other." I believe this. Perhaps this is why I feel so deeply for these families being torn apart and washed away - for these families and children needing homes and love and security. They are our people. Everyone is our people.
And yet, when I think about the enormity of it all I just shrink back and want to hide away, to pretend I didn't see, pretend I still don't know, which, of course I can't.
I can't pretend I don't know what is happening.
But I feel so powerless and far away - I can't fix it either.
I forget where the story of the starfish originated. We told it at camp, using it for a campfire skit way back in the day, but even then I didn't know where it came from. It goes something like this -
A man was walking along a beach that was overrun with starfish. Hundreds upon thousands of starfish, beached, too far from the water, destined to die. This man picked up starfish one by one and tossed them back into the sea. Another man saw him and asked why he was doing that, there were too many starfish and he would never save them all. He could never make a difference. The first man looked at the starfish in his hand, tossed it into the sea, and said, "it made a difference to that one."
I feel kind of (a lot) like that second man sometimes. The problems are too big, the situation too far gone, hopeless. Soul-crushing helplessness. What am I supposed to do to help the millions upon millions of people struggling and suffering? I am equipped for very little. Remember? My big challenge in life right now is getting my silly baby to eat the bounty of food we have available for him.
What do I know of struggling to find any food for my starving baby to eat?
It's in those moments that I stop, take a breath, and remember the starfish. I don't have to save the world. I don't have to fix the world's problems. I only need to do one thing. (I read a lot of Ann Voskamp, too.) One thing. Help one starfish at a time.
I read about a few organizations who are close, who are not helpless, who are saving people and feeding people and healing people and finding people shelter. I'm trying to figure out where my help can go, while in the mean time praying really, really hard and trying to keep all this in perspective when I get frustrated with my own life.
The clouds have moved on now. It's just blue sky. I kind of miss my cloud blanket.