After dinner Friday night, Katie brought me the small globe from her room.
“Mama,” she said, handing the blue and green ball out to me. “Can you show me where to find Ukraine?”
Since Thursday morning, I’ve tried–and failed–to start this blog post multiple times. I’ve typed in sentences, paragraphs, full sections, only to erase them and try again. I’ve stared at the blank page for far too long. I’ve walked away, hoping that time doing other things would help break loose the things I want to say.
But I can’t seem to find the right words.
When terrible things happen on the other side of the world (or even right down the street), what I have to offer seems so paltry and trite.
The girls don’t know much about what’s happening in Ukraine. They’re little yet, too small to carry the weight of such burdens.
But they are bright and they pay attention and they ask questions, and they are starting to be curious about how the world works. They are not too young to be concerned for others, to pray for those in need. And they have friends whose relatives fled Kyev this week.
So when Katie overheard Jonathan and me talking about ways we could help, she wanted to know more. We gave her a simple explanation.
“[Our friends] are from a country called Ukraine. The leader of another country, Russia, sent his army to start a war because he wanted to try to take Ukraine for himself.”
(Yes, I know. Overly simplistic. I’m about as far from an expert in the politics of NATO and Eastern European nations as you can get and even I know there are layers upon layers of history and complexity here. At its root, though, I believe what we told them was true.)
After many follow-up questions and answers, including assurances that, snarky political jokes notwithstanding, Russia is very far away from California, Katie shook her head.
“Well,” she said. “I just want to send that bad man a lot of mean notes to make him stop.”
If only it were so simple.
I read the news, stories of children sleeping in subways, of babies being delivered in bomb shelters, of the courage of Zalenskyy and his people as they defend their homeland, and I desperately want to do something to help, something to make that bad man stop.
Instead, I go about my day, seeing to my everyday responsibilities.
It feels wrong, somehow, to be changing diapers and cooking dinner and teaching math when people on the other side of the globe are fighting or fleeing for their lives, but what else can I do?
Saturday morning, I showed Jonathan a video of an Irish journalist handing a Russian ambassador his lunch. The kids, drawn by the sound of voices coming from the phone, dropped what they were doing to come try to get a peek.
“Is that the bad guy that started that war?” Abby asked me.
I shook my head. “No, but he works for him.”
She wrinkled her nose in confusion. “Well, but, why does he want to work for a bad guy? Why doesn’t he just stop?”
Why doesn’t he just stop, indeed, sweet girl?
In today’s world of social media and instant news, I’m prone to fall into one of two traps:
I become overwhelmed, knowing I can’t even begin to learn about all of the evil and suffering around the world, much less do anything to solve it, and so I drift into apathy, focusing only on the small bubble of my friends and family
I fall into the pit of social activism and doom-scrolling to the detriment of the things that have been given to me to do, mistaking online activity and good feelings for change that makes a difference.
How do I hold that balance? How do I continue to care in a way that does more than stoke my own good feelings about myself? How do I do a good job of loving my neighbor in Ukraine (or Afghanistan or China or North Korea or, or, or . . .) while also loving my neighbor down the street (not to mention these four small children entrusted to my care)?
I don’t know. I don’t have a good answer. Not one that is satisfying.
Still, I do what I can. I give, as opportunity presents itself. I talk to my kids about what it means to love others. I try to maintain a basic understanding of news and world events and to put pressure on my elected officials to do the right thing (when I know what the “right thing” is).
And I pray.
I pray that God would give me the grace to remember those who are suffering around the world.
That, as I wake in my own bed, I might pray for rest for those defending their country.
That, as I make dinner, I might pray for those whose stomachs are empty.
That, as I sing with my kids, I might pray that God would strengthen and encourage those who mourn.
That, as I care for my home, I might pray for those who have fled theirs.
That, as I encourage my children to make decisions that create peace, I might pray that world leaders would do the same.
That, as we sit down at the table as a family, I might pray for those who have been separated from each other.
That, as we tuck our kids in for the night, I might pray for light and hope for those in the darkness.
That God would use my daily responsibilities and activities to turn my gaze outward, that whenever my thoughts turn to the events dominating world headlines, my first impulse would be to take it all to Him, that His Holy Spirit would guide and lead me in how to pray and how to act.
It feels trite and paltry and I want to do more. May God in His grace somehow make it enough.