Having Compassion on Mother’s Day
Mother’s Day always sneaks up on me, but it slapped me hard across the face this week when my mom said something about how my Grandmother always would take us all out for pizza on Mother’s Day.
While she was talking, I realized that this will be the first Mother’s Day of my mom’s life without her mother. I watched my mama’s hands setting napkins out on the table and was careful not to make eye contact.
Then I started thinking about how many people will be missing and remembering their mothers this Sunday.
How many more will hurt for the mother they wish they had? Or the mother they wish they could be?
How is it that a day to celebrate our mothers can churn up so much sadness?
How about one more?
What about mothers who don’t even know it is Mother’s Day because they are preoccupied with keeping a hungry or a sick child alive?
I don’t for a minute think that I can really relate to mothers in this circumstance, but once upon a time, when I found myself woefully unprepared for a trip I took, I learned to empathize just the tiniest bit with these mothers.
In the summer of 2000, my husband, Taido, and I led a trip to China of people from our church in Seattle, to teach English in a summer camp on a university campus in a more remote part of the country.
We were so excited about this adventure for which we planned and prepared for a long time, but our two children turned three and one while we were there. That’s right. They were both in diapers. Though I planned like crazy, there was just no way I could have anticipated all the different situations in which we would find ourselves.
One of the hardest parts was that Cole was sick with digestive issues for almost the entire six weeks we were there. As a toddler, it was impossible to keep him off the ground and out of the dirt, which would then result in his ingesting some kind of bacteria that would make him sick. Taido and I both had similar bouts with being sick, but not as extreme as Cole’s.
Additionally, all our meals were prepared for us by the school staff, so we had no way of knowing which dishes were making us sick, except to sort of guess. We also had no control over what was served. I lost 17 pounds in 6 weeks. In crippling heat, I tried to find things that Cole could eat that would not make him sick. We found a man across the street that baked Naan (flatbread) in a brick oven every morning and we would buy a stack of it and feed it to Cole all day. When rice was served (not always), I would hoard it for him.
I worked hard to keep him hydrated and fed, but mostly I felt helpless in my attempts to make the situation better.
You know how when your baby is sick and you search high and low for that one thing that tastes good to them, so you, the Mama, Nurturer, Mother Hen, can feed your child? We buy popsicles and 7Up and whatever we can think of so our little ones will feel better.
I cried out to God for help for my little guy and I wept tears of gratitude when I found food that didn’t seem to make him sick. I remember giving thanks to God for teaching me lessons of total dependance on Him, but wishing the lessons could be over.
In the middle of my time there, I decided to get on a plane and fly two hours with my babies to another city where I had a friend who had experience in feeding and caring for children in this environment. Even as I write that, it sounds really drastic, but I was desperate.
In just a few days, my friend was able to get Cole (and me) well, so we headed back to finish up our summer term. When we flew back to Seattle (where we lived at the time), I walked in the door of our town home and turned on the clean water that runs RIGHT OUT OF THE KITCHEN SINK. Then I sat down on the floor and cried.
Thirteen years later, I still don’t know what to do with a world where I get to scoop my babies up and fly away when things get too hard while so many mothers have to watch their little ones suffer.
16,000 children will die today from hunger-related causes while I get to feed mine whatever they like.
I often feel as helpless to face that statistic as I did all those years ago in Western China to help Cole feel better. That’s part of why I started Ten Dollar Tuesdays for myself in this space. Even if I can’t do a lot, I can make small commitments that count in God’s economy.
I wish you a Happy Mother’s Day filled with LOVE and Compassion.