My wife loves being a mother. I've never heard her once wish that she could be away from her children. She embraced it wholeheartedly from the moment our first daughter was placed in her arms to this present moment where that same daughter is navigating her way as a sixteen year old.
I continue to wrestle with an ongoing question to which I have no perfectly written answer.
But I must keep asking.
And praying for a heart that reaches far outside itself. Outside the bubble where I keep it protected from the realities that are so uncomfortable and disconcerting.
How do I live my sheltered life, on my peaceful street, in this beautiful city I love while, at the same time, knowing the needs and unimaginable situations both around me and far away?
I believe I am to enjoy – and even more, be grateful – for that with which I have been blessed.
But not stop there.
My daughter and I were part of a small team that recently returned from Uganda, where an enormous number of South Sudanese have fled due to violent unrest in their country. Most arrived with what was in their arms or on their backs, where settlements were created to give them a place to set up home so that they might live in safety as they try to put their lives back together. Their experiences are beyond belief. But real.
So what do I do with that as I readjust to my life here?
First of all, I want to live in a state of gratitude. Mindful of and thankful for the abundant life I have. I never want for food (unless it’s a specific craving). I have shelter where I feel safe. There is freedom for me to believe what I believe.
Second, I want to live with awareness that my situation is not the norm for so many people in this world. Because I might have more does not mean their value is less.
Third, I want that awareness to sink deep enough to penetrate the thick walls of my heart that keep me from thinking or acting with the compassion I know I was created to feel.
It is then that I can deny my selfishness and help make some part of someone’s life easier. Better. Hopeful. I can lift a burden, whether it be for a moment or a lifetime.
I believe awareness begets compassion. Compassion begets a response. And that response can be the cup of water, ray of light, or seed of hope that gives life.
During this busy season of abundance, may our hearts be captured by the calls for help. Whether it’s news we hear from far away, or the ringing of a bell next to a red bucket near the entrance of a store.
I may never have the perfectly composed answer to my ongoing question, but I will continue to ask. I will continue to wrestle. I will pray to live in a perpetual state of gratitude, and that my gratitude will lead to compassion, which will lead to the appropriate response.