I line up with the others, take my place in the horseshoe formation of motors humming, heaters cranking. I wait my turn to open a door, to point to a booster and say "hop in." I spot him while I'm still five cars away, the canvas backpack still half as big as he is. I swallow back un-articulated angst, press harder on the brake, needlessly.
I'm still in park.
I fight the urge to droop my shoulders and beat my head against the horn, knowing I can't get away with that brand of crazy, at least not in the carpool line.
Ten minutes of NPR can do this to a person.
Everything under the gaping-mouthed moon seems to grow heavier, darker by the day. Except of course my tiny little life--my cocooned suburban existence. It stays bright, healthy, fed, warm, alive, well.
But what about the little boy in my son's class whose loved one never showed up for "Lunch with a Loved One"? And what about the little girl in the second grade who watched a coffin lower into ground last week, her mother's? And what about the four year old halfway around the world, still far too young to protest, but shot anyway, as he stood on a balcony? And what about the earth shaking tremors taking lives and crumbling homes? And what about the girls sold every second into slavery? I'm halfway through my obnoxious what about the list, all these reasons for fists to shake at sky, when I pull up to the curb.
"Hey big guy! How was school?" And back I snap into my sing-song life. Like a good little ostrich, while the world swirls faster and faster down the drain, I sit in the freakin' carpool line, thumb through his take-home folder, spout off the snack options.
While children starve in North Korea, I barter with mine about dessert.
The moon gapes, having seen too much. And I, though I've seen little and heard but a fraction, what with my head so buried in the beautiful sand, I find myself breaking out of the after-school auto-pilot long enough to feel the downward pull of generic tears.
But I don't actually cry. I just mince garlic and slice onions and chop parsley and shout for the kids to stop wielding the inflatable swords, favors from last weekend's birthday party. And then I agree with that famous equation involving ignorance and bliss.
It is timely then, that I pick up Ann Voskamp's book hours later while the children sleep and the dishes soak, that I read her answer to the question I still can't phrase:
I know there is poor and hideous suffering, and I've seen the hungry and the guns that go to war. I have lived pain, and my life can tell: I only deepen the wound of the world when I neglect to give thanks....
Why would the world need more anger, more outrage? How does it save the world to reject unabashed joy when it is joy that saves us? Rejecting joy to stand in solidarity with the suffering doesn't rescue the suffering. The converse does. The brave who focus on all things good and all things beautiful and all things true, even in the small, who give thanks for it and discover joy even in the here and now, they are the change agents who bring fullest Light to all the world. -Ann Voskamp, excerpt from One Thousand GiftsI gulp down this cocktail of conviction, relief, and "Aha!". For too long I have nursed guilt over the way others suffer and I don't. For too long I have added my voice to the anger and the outrage, added my fist to the masses that clench and shake. And I've had it wrong, all wrong.
Ann isn't first to exhort me to focus on "whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable", or to instruct "if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." But she is the first to help me see how this practice of tuning into beauty can become an antidote to suffering, how gratitude can soothe soul sickness--mine, the world's.
I look out, see how even at half full, a moon sheds light enough for ice to glisten. I give thanks, throw my faint glimmer in with the moon and marvel at how even the tiniest light trounces the dark.