But I Don’t Wanna Go To Bed!

“But I don’t wanna go to bed!” Sound familiar? Irritatingly, we have this conversation nearly every evening. Usually, it revolves around the fact that the kiddos want Mama to read another chapter of the book we’re reading together. Right now, we’re reading The Chronicles of Narnia series, and quite frankly I could stay up all night reading these books. Nevertheless, that is not wise for any of us.

Over the weekend, Clara uttered her little nightly complaint once again and I found myself launching into a mini tirade about the privilege of going to bed. I expounded on the beauty of her warm, soft bed layered with clean sheets and quilts and fluffy pillows, in a dry room, safe and snuggly, loaded with stuffed animals, soft classical music playing in the background. Kind of makes you want to curl up right here, right now, doesn’t it!

Did you see the photo shoot that made the rounds of Facebook and other social media outlets recently? The one focusing on children around the world and their treasured possessions? Many of the children are posing on or near their beds. Take another look! Here’s the link.

Reading through posted comments is one of those vacuum cleaner activities… I hate it but I get sucked in. So, I read through some of the comments. Many were complimentary of the photography; some commented on the similarities between countries while others were shocked/disturbed/amazed at what was considered a treasure. And then there were a few snarky comments regarding the photographer’s choice of subjects… particularly regarding the photos from Malawi and Kenya. Why choose only “the most heart-wrenching” subjects? There are wealthy Malawians and Kenyans. Why choose these subjects? Why choose only a seemingly wealthy child in India? Why not visit the slums of Calcutta? Or the cardboard camps in Honduras? That probably has more to do with access and money more than some grand social engineering on the photographer’s part. But I think the point has been lost. There are children around the world living in grand luxury and children around the world living in abysmal circumstances, children with amazingly comfortable beds and children with a cot or a mud and straw mattress or nothing, children with hundreds of toys and children with 1 or 2.

Then there are the children of Uganda. It is estimated that between 60,000 and 100,000 children have been stolen from their homes in the middle of the night, have been enslaved by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army, and have been orphaned by the 20 + year war he perpetrated on the country of Uganda. Do you remember Joseph Kony and the Invisible Children video calling for his arrest that went viral last year? He’s still out there. According to the Invisible Children website, he is moving north toward the Sudan where he is finding more friendly governments, but he remains at large in the Congo. And in his wake, he has left thousands of children. Some children join their parents on a daily hike to the nearest city… sometimes over 10 miles away… so they may sleep in the streets, protected by the largeness of the city, and avoid being abducted. Others have been uprooted from home all together, living in dire refugee camps. Other children have escaped from the LRA but live with the terrors of being abducted in the middle of the night; of being beaten nearly to death; of having to kill brothers, sisters, parents; of being used as sex slaves; of being a tiny soldier. There are children who have returned home to find no parents, who are heading the household at tender ages, responsible for the food and safety of the smaller siblings. I’d like you to watch this video. In it, a boy is crying because he is the head of his household. He went to the well to get water for his siblings. The other children at the well pushed him and he wasn’t able to fetch water for his family. He has a mat and no blankets for his family to sleep on. His 4-year-old sister is lame and requires care for even the simplest of things. The boy is 12. At 12, my daughter hopes to purchase her first phone and get her ears pierced. While she will have responsibilities around the house, she will certainly not be responsible for running the household. This boy’s story breaks my heart. And this is just one story. One horrific, unthinkable, unbelievable, mind-blowingly sad story. (stay tuned)

Unless….

I’ll never forget the day Dr. Hobbs brought in the movie The Lorax and showed it to us. I was flabbergasted… Dr. Seuss had a book I’d never heard of? There was an accompanying movie? And in the course of 30 minutes I fell head over heels in love with that furry little creature with the largest handlebar mustache the planet has ever seen. And as the Lorax lifted himself away from the decimated land the Onceler had destroyed with his Thneed factory, his departure and the sad backward glance he gave the Onceler left me a blubbery, sloppy mess trying to hide the fact that my heart was bleeding as openly as my eyes were shedding tears. It’s a little embarrassing to start crying in the middle of college freshman biology, you know.
Through the years, I’ve read the Dr. Seuss book to my kids over and over again. I read it with a conflict in my heart. On the one hand, I side with the Oncler… he does have his rights and yes “business is business! And business must grow….” I live in and daily reap the benefits of a capitalist society. I rather like the notion of limited government and the “survival of the fittest” mentality that allows creativity and expansion. Where in the world would we be without people living out big dreams, without enterprise, without something better toward which to strive? Would Steve Jobs have had as large an influence on the world of technology if, say, he lived in communist China or even socialist Europe?*
On the other hand, the sad plight of the Brown Bar-ba-loots and the Humming-Fish and the Swomee-Swans as their habitats are systematically destroyed breaks my heart. I get the message of responsible stewardship of land, air, and water. And I can see how some would take Dr. Seuss’ message as completely anti-big-business. There are those who stop at nothing to widen the profit margin at the expense of people and places. They ruin it for the rest of us.
When I read this book with the kids, I hope they take away the responsible stewardship message more than the anti-big-business message. And I think they do. In fact, the Lorax leaves a message, the one I think Dr. Seuss really intended for us to take away from the book: “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Yet, when I saw that Hollywood was making a new movie version of the story, I was skeptical. The kids were so excited to see it, and I was apprehensive. What kind of political spin will the creators take? How bad are they going to make business? Will my kids walk out of the movie spewing a loathing for business that came from a subconscious-level indoctrination? Like a word written in a cloud (Aladdin) or a ”ghost” hiding behind a curtain (3 Men and a Baby), what values would the movie subconsciously instill? Am I the only person out there that has these thoughts?
WELL. We went to see the movie. And it was fabulously fun. Brightly colored, engaging, with an appropriate amount of suspense and comedy, and toward the end I nearly jumped out of my seat in excitement. The Onceler is getting ready to hand the Truffula tree seed to Ted and he says, “It may seem small and insignificant. It’s not about what it is. It’s about what it can become.” Perfect! That’s a message I want my kids to take away. Even the smallest act of goodness and kindness can become so much larger.
Have you seen the Joseph Kony youtube video made by Invisible Children? (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc&feature=share) Their message is similar… the power of one small, seemingly insignificant video that may just lead to the arrest of the world’s worst, the man responsible for the abduction of 1000s of children across Uganda, for turning the girls into sex slaves and the boys into child soldiers. Will this video create enough global focus to lead to the arrest of Joseph Kony? At the time of publishing this blog, over 76 million people have viewed the video. Will that force, will that knowledge lead to the outcome for which Invisible Children is striving? It seems small now but what does it have the potential to become? And how will this social justice movement shape and influence other like movements?
Where will a cup of Compassion Tea lead? One order of Compassion Tea, one cup of tea, may seem small and insignificant. But what can it become? A pill to stop a parasite, a medicine to relieve malaria, a pair of eyeglasses for someone who can’t see, or a shot of novocaine to make the necessary dental work more doable, maybe a pile of bandages to stop the bleeding feet or the raw, open wound on the back of the neck, antibiotics for pneumonia, a nurse’s kind touch, a psychologist visiting, a doctor finally explaining what is wrong… in short, that cup of tea becomes hope. And hope is a very powerful thing. We don’t completely know the end of the story. But won’t it be fun to watch!

*My views are not necessarily those of the rest of the Compassion Tea team regarding politics.