William Sprankles @wsprankles
A few days ago the faces of starving – dying — children in Somalia flashed across my TV screen. Some had flies landing on their faces that they didn’t have the strength to wipe away. Others had huge tears rolling down their cheeks as they looked directly into the camera. A few were lifelessly lying in their mothers’ arms, their abdomens rather than their chests rising with each precious breath, a sign that death was gaining ground.
From where I sat, I could look directly into my kitchen. I didn’t have to open the doors to picture how well stocked it was: cottage cheese, Mountain Dew, tomatoes, leftovers from O’Charley’s, a loaf of partially eaten bread, and much more I’m ashamed to talk about. The thought made me sick to my stomach.
This year my second grandchild was born. His name is Austin, but we call him Bubby. I don’t know why we call him that; it’s just a term of endearment. We also call him angel. And handsome man. We kiss him non-stop. We pick him up the second he cries. His mother is always checking that his diaper is dry and his formula fresh. Wonderful friends from work have donated little boys’ clothes, so many that I don’t think we’ll need to shop for him until he turns seven. And I started to cry.
I don’t understand life sometimes. I can’t rationalize why I have so much and others have so little. I can’t explain why I have never gone hungry and why children in my family risk being spoiled, while babies in Somalia are literally dying for some water and their parents walk 30 nights through the dessert in hopes of saving at least one of their dwindling brood. It doesn’t make sense.
What affected me the most, I suppose, was my inability to do a darn thing about it. I felt totally and utterly helpless. Sure, I wrote down the website for donations and sent what I could collect from my wallet. But what can a few dollars do? If I emptied my refrigerator, would it make a difference? Should I feel guilty that Bubby rests comfortably in the arms of his mother tonight? And will I forget those disturbing images the moment I step back into the classroom, getting caught up in the all-consuming preparations for a new school year? I pray that I don’t.
There are many things in life I cannot control. But there are many things I can: like remembering every day how blessed I am. Like putting things in perspective, reminding myself that my grandchildren are not dying of starvation when I sigh over the paper load I’m carting to my car in the evening. Like looking into the faces of each new student who will soon tromp into my classroom — some with shy smiles, some sulking, some expressionless – and reminding myself that their lives are not always easy either. They’re not in a famine, but they might have gone without breakfast. Their parents haven’t traveled through a dessert, but they might not see them much because they work a double shift. And maybe, just maybe, they’re angry because at their young age, they’ve already discovered life isn’t fair.
I can’t touch in any personal way those precious children in Somalia. But I can make a difference in the lives of young people here. Shame on me, if I don’t do that.
By Cheryl Adams
Princeton High School, English Teacher