When I heard about what happened on Friday I reacted the way most people probably did. I felt sad and angry, I asked, “Why?” and “What should I do?” Should I run from the details, refrain from looking at distant images of others’ suffering? If I look at photographs of parents crying as their worlds fall apart, will I be contributing somehow? Contributing to what? I felt cynical. I thought, “Well I guess there will be a candlelight vigil and some kind of benefit concert. Neither will bring any one of those people back or make their families feel better.” I also feel like someone is making a lot of money off of all the surges of hits on websites and TV news coverage, and that makes me sick. I was also reminded I have always been overwhelmed by and never known what to do with others’ suffering. A friend and I started a chapter of Amnesty International at our middle school and wrote letters to foreign governments in our twelve year old handwriting asking them to free the captive and stop torturing their citizens. In our suburban New Jersey cafeteria we hung photographs of children who had lost limbs in diamond mines in Sierra Leone. Did any of this help in some way? Were those children in Sierra Leone or their families somehow comforted by our caring? Were the governments in Southeast Asia moved by our pleas? Most likely not, but really I have no idea. I do know that I was depressed and overwhelmed by the suffering of those people so far away, and I felt guilty that I had a life that seemed so safe and happy. That’s exactly how I feel right now. I don’t want to look at images of other people in the deepest darkness I wish they never met. I feel like it’s none of my business. I feel like I have no idea what to do, and I want to help. I know that the answer is much bigger than me, bigger than me hugging my kids. It has a lot to do with the care of mental illness and various other aspects of our society that are contributing to all kinds of suffering day in and day out, more things on a long list of sad frustrations that I also have no idea what to do about. The answer is smaller than me too. I really truly feel that the best thing I can offer the whole world is to be myself at my best and most giving, and to help my children with growing and learning and living by treating them with kindness, respect and love. I really believe that. It’s all I have to give, and there is no answer to why them, why not me? I am thinking of a story of someone saying to a Rebbe who has just lost it all. “I’m sorry to bother you on such a bad day.” He answered, “I’ve never had a bad day, every day is so full of wonderful gifts.” I used to think I wanted to be like that Rebbe, but I think life is so much more complicated than that. What I really want is just to do my best to be loving, and generous, and supportive to the whole world, and the only way I can think of to do that with the resources I have is to take the best care of myself and my family that I can. I feel like everything I’m writing is so trite and insignificant, and I wish I could do something more than sit here and type. I just don’t know what to do and this is the best I could come up with. Do you have any answers?
Here is a little of the extra light we enjoyed tonight: