I had another column all ready to send to you. It was quirky. It was whimsical. But then, I was struck by a photograph.
“Struck” is the wrong word. Gifted, perhaps. You’ve probably seen the picture. It’s a simple line of strollers on a train platform, and the story behind it is simple, as well. The strollers were left there by a handful of Polish mothers, left there for Ukrainian moms who would be getting off the next train. The Polish mothers didn’t know these other women, but they knew that they were fleeing their country, leaving homes and husbands and brothers and fathers that they might very well never see again. They had packed up what little they could carry, picked up their children and boarded a train, hoping to get the little ones out of the path of the madman who was destroying their country on an evil, delusional whim.
The picture made me cry, first because of the horrible senselessness of the attacks, but also for the simple, open beauty of the gesture.
We all know the story of Jesus’ multiplication of a handful of loaves and fishes to feed a crowd of thousands, but the part of the story that is sometimes overlooked is that someone, some say a child, brought the loaves to the table to begin with, a small, open offering that went to the very heart of our collective hunger.
In times of horror, such as we are witnessing now, it is easy to feel helpless. Think back to 9/11, to the school shootings, to tornadoes that all too often rip through our area leaving unspeakable destruction in their wake. For as much as we would like to, we can’t keep these things from happening. And sadly, we can’t fix them, either. All we can do is bring what we have, however small, and offer it up for the effort, trusting that in some minute way, it will make a positive difference.
I’m guessing the Ukrainian women traveling to Poland had been holding themselves together for a long time, being brave for the children. They were tired and terrified and had no idea what would happen when they got off the train. Where would they go? What would they do? Can you imagine carrying all that? All they knew was that there was a chance that where they were going would be better than where they had been. To get off that train and see a line of strollers left by welcoming strangers? It makes me cry all over again.
The Ukrainian immigrants are going to need so much more. Immediately, they need food and shelter and protection from the bombs. Going forward, they will need a future, a path, a place for rebuilding and healing. It’s bound to be a long, painful road, but right now, if they can go to sleep knowing that they are not alone in all this, it will be a good place to start. You and I, we can help make that happen.
I’ll send my other column out later. It will still be quirky. It will still be whimsical. But, I needed to send you this one now. It is the barley loaf that I have.
There will always be people who are suffering, sometimes in situations immediate and desperate, sometimes quiet and long and deep, and I hope each of us stays aware of what loaves we have in our keeping. I hope we see our strollers and know exactly where they should go.
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