Got a hair cut yesterday, first one in months and months and months, which is why that hat makes so many frequent appearances here on the blog. I'm not even sure if the last haircut I got technically even "counts," as I paid $6 for it at a beauty school. The conversation I had with the stylist got me thinking about some things.
She asked me a lot of questions about our adoption, which she knew about through a mutual friend. I didn't mean to go on about it, but I find it difficult to talk about our trip to Ethiopia without mentioning the overwhelming need there right now. I saw her bristle a little when the subject came up, and I mentioned something about the topic being depressing and not meaning to make her uncomfortable.
She explained that she's a "bleeding heart," that she pretty much avoids any news about suffering in the world because she's afraid she'll simply come unglued. She said, "I don't even have a clue about what's going on in that Durfur (sic) place."
I'm not judging her. I can remember distinct times when I was in grad school and extremely busy with a job and 3 consecutive 12-hour semesters where I'd turn on the TV late at night, hoping for a half hour of Seinfeld or something and actually end up feeling irritated by the sight of gaunt-faced children in need of food, being held by someone like James Robison or Sally Struthers. It's not that I didn't care--it's that the situation felt overwhelming, and with the demands on my time during that part of my life, I didn't want to be faced with reality when I turned on the TV. I wanted Jerry and Elaine, Cosmo and George.
I'd quickly change the channel to bury my head in the sand. I didn't think I could take it. I'm not proud of these feelings I had.
So I'm really not judging the lady who cut my hair yesterday. I understand her impulse to choose oblivion. I've done it. It's just that something changes when you have seen those faces first-hand. They are no longer faces behind a TV screen. I've seen those faces before, talked with them, and played with those children. I think about them all nonstop now. I do feel overwhelmed by the poverty, the hunger, the need.
And here's what I come back to, over and over: During our time in Addis Ababa, we had a conversation with Belay (Gladney's in-country Superman) about this topic. He's a very quotable guy and told us something about how even Bill Gates couldn't afford to buy the whole world a steak dinner. And even if he could, the hungry would still be hungry the next day. He then explained that the need is overwhelming and that one person can't change it all. But what one person can do is take action where they feel their heart being pulled.
That's what I try to remember when the burden starts feeling really heavy. I don't want to bury my head in the sand. I don't want to choose oblivion. Like in the story of the Good Samaritan, I don't want to be the person who walks on by doing nothing.
So even if it feels that the money we give or the time we spend pulling our heads up out of the sand are not enough, rest assured that it'll never be enough. But it's something. It's something to the person our actions affect, and that's what matters. That and the reality that by letting ourselves be affected, our hearts remain flesh and not stone.