I really wanted to write something positive today. Then I saw this.
The first time I had seen that picture was last Sunday. It was on the front page of the New York Times. My seven-year old daughter had just crawled up on my lap and asked me who that was. I told her that this picture was of another seven-year old girl who lived in Yemen and because of the war going on in that country could not get enough to eat. She was now suffering from something called malnutrition.
When my daughter, first leapt on my lap, I turned the paper over as the top of the fold story was about the shooting in Pittsburgh. I flipped it to protect her from that story, not knowing that an equally disturbing one would be revealed on the other side of the paper.
She implored me, “Daddy, please turn the page, I don’t want to look at that picture anymore, it’s scary.” In saying this, she expressed an all-too familiar sentiment we all feel when it comes to confronting terrible news. If we turn the page, it goes away. Out of sight out of mind. And so I did.
Later that day, my daughter threw a fit when her peas touched her pasta during dinner. It was a typical outburst of a tired child but I felt a deep rage within me. So frustrated was I by her inability to put her own discomfort in perspective to what she had seen earlier that morning. How could she forget so quickly?
Well, she is a seven-year old child. What is our excuse?
Some will say we can only react to the problems in front of us and while they may seem trivial to the rest of the world, they are very real at the time. When we are confronted with the more serious suffering of others, our problems are put in perspective and their proportion is adjusted. They become and feel smaller. Fair enough.
But how perverse is it that the severe suffering of others serves a purpose of making us feel better about our own.
Are our only choices to turn the page or confront the suffering of others and feel better about our own problems?
The picture appeared again in Friday’s paper, with an update. The seven-year old girl had died – the result of not being able to get the necessary follow up medical care, she so desperately needed.
If that seven-year old girl were in my daughter’s 1st grade class, I would fly off the couch to see how we could help. Instead of staying on it and turning the page.
Here is a link to Doctors without Borders that is active in trying to provide care in Yemen. If so inclined, you can make a donation in memory of Amal Hussain, the seven-year old girl in the photograph.