Last night, my kids laughed at me.
They were derisive, really.
“Don’t tell me Mom wants to go to Haiti,” they cackled. “Get real.”
I was stunned.
I mean, I know they’re teens and their natural state is cynical, but really? Do they not know that I would drop what I’m doing in an instant and fling my things into a bag to go help someone in need?
“It’s not like you’re a doctor or anything, Mom,” said Thing One and Thing Two. “What do you think you’d be doing there? They don’t need people like you.”
I was silent. But my head was spinning.
In my core, I considered the answers. I’m no nurse, but doctors need someone to corral the kids while their parents are treated, don’t they? Volunteer medics are operating in destroyed parking lots, for crying out loud. Patients are milling around – or strewn around – with little method to the madness.
I’ve seen the videos and they haunt me.
Surely having someone there to soothe the distressed and steer the frantic would help!
It’s true that I don’t even know if I can find someone who will send me.
I just feel that I should.
Yes, even “people like me.”
Yesterday, I sat in my favorite cushy chair in my tastefully decorated living room in my upper-middle-class, suburban neighborhood.
Most of the day.
Oh, I Twittered, I Facebook’d, I played online Scrabble (only two plays; it generally takes Marta a day or two to get back around to noticing there’s a game still going on); I watched the iPad debut. Oh yeah, and I worked, on occasion.
I’m embarrassed to confess it was a typical day.
But somewhere in the world, not actually so very far away, there is no such thing as a “typical” day, anymore. What might have been a room with a sofa is likely now a pile of debris and never-salvaged, decaying bodies. Many who barely survived are facing amputations – by hacksaw.
There is destruction and chaos and panic and despair.
Do I really want to go?
I know it will stink. Gut-wrenchingly. Decomposition is just that way.
It will be hot. It will be chaotic. It will be exhausting. It will be heart wrenching. It will be risky.
Sounds like exactly the place where I will work alongside Jesus. And, perhaps, those people will only see Him through my love when I draw near them.
But why should my kids expect me to be amongst those who would board a plane destined for the unknown to face God knows what in a demolished land? They seemingly have missed the essence of who I believe myself to be in my depths, but what do they see from me each day of the week?
Am I volunteering in the local shelter? Am I down and dirty with anyone in the streets of Atlanta which, though not upended by the devastating forces of nature, are replete with need? Do I regularly – or even occasionally – face danger or poverty or abandonment or filth or infirmity?
I want to set an example to my family by being among the first to volunteer when tragedy strikes a hurting people-nation in a far-off land.
But my kids’ reactions last night struck me full force in the heart – and head. If I have any hope of demonstrating to them the kind of person I hope they will become, it can only start in our own stretch of grass.
I’ve known that. Sure, on paper, it sounds logical.
But, somehow, that does not inspire the same urgency in me. There are no cameras to shine a light into those local holes. No fund-raising campaign has people digging through their wallets for even the slightest of change to help. I know of no easy route to identify where to assist first.
There is no chance I will get swept into the flurry of activity that will ensure I actually get off my duff and show up for duty.
Still, I’m guessing there is a child – or a dozen – who feels alone. (He or she may even live in my own house.) There is hunger. Thirst. The need for a bed. A caring presence.
So I have a new challenge. Yes, I’ll still agonize when I see the international images in blogs and television and Internet, and yearn for a route to go and be a voice of comfort in the bedlam. If I find someone who will give me a chance to put my life out there for those people who have lost everything, I will go in an instant.
But, until then, it’s time for me to tug on my service shoes and head next door.
Someone needs me. And someone needs the compassionate adults that my children can become.
There are people and souls who want to be fed and I ache to be there for them but, unless I lead the way, the most for which my children ever hunger may be the latest Apple.
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