Harsh Times

Lately I’ve struggled to find words to describe these times.  This morning a fourth grader gave me the words I needed.  In response to a classmate’s honest sharing of a poem about a difficult family situation, one student said, “Writing a poem is a way to get through harsh times.”  These are harsh times on so many levels.  I spent spring break in rural Nebraska, and the weather was harsh, by Arizona standards.  We had the luxury of staying inside, though, as the bitter wind blew and snow enveloped the ground.  I thought of people all over the planet who lack that option for one reason or another.  Being cold without proper protection and shelter is one of the harshest human experiences I can imagine.  

Another layer of harshness during the visit to my home town was witnessing the  decline of my parents.  At 97 and almost 94, they’ve lived a long and vibrant life. Both of them are merely a fragment of who they used to be, and each time I see them there is less and less remaining of who they were.  I feel grateful for the long time we’ve had them, and am already grieving the loss.  

While I validate my own feelings about the gradual loss of my parents, my mind can’t help but wander to Ukraine.  What’s happening there is unfathomable.  I’ve followed the situation through podcasts and news articles.  Being a teacher, parent, grandparent, and great-grandparent, the hardest part for me is the children.  Images of a family killed as they were moving toward safety and the photo of a fatally injured pregnant woman are hard to erase from my mind.  An inspiring, yet heartbreaking story is of a 33-year-old Ukrainian history teacher who has made the decision to stay behind to care for children who have no parents.  He helped evacuate 400 children from an orphanage, many of whom are disabled, and moved them to safety.  He is continuously working to provide the children food and shelter, and has vowed to remain with them in Mariupol, no matter what.

Thinking of the Ukrainian children who are victims of this war, as well as countless others who have died senselessly in recent wars, is overwhelming.  I often feel helpless that I can’t do more to help with this situation.  I can send money and thoughts and prayers.  Beyond that, it’s hard to know what to do.  Whenever I find myself in this place, I re-focus on what’s happening at the Seed.  I’m hoping by raising generations of peace makers, negotiators, and social justice activists we can tip the scale toward a safer world in which all children can thrive. 

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