Dear Sweet Girl,
Last week, when your Daddy was out for the evening, you and I sat in my bed and I did your hair. I love drying your hair while you sit on my lap. I love the chats we have. I love that every day you say to me, “Mommy. I have a REALLY good question!” and then you ask about how stars are formed, or how electricity gets into our house from the pole, or how we eat green veggies but they come out of us brown. It’s mind blowing.
Well this particular night, we talked about emergencies, and how to deal with them. We went over 9-1-1 and how to call from my passcoded phone, and what info we’d tell the 9-1-1 operator. You thought about it, said the right stuff, and then looked at me with those great big, bright brown eyes with a bit of fear, and welled-up tears.
“What is it, Sweet Girl?” I asked.
“Momma, I don’t want you to get hurt. I don’t want to be alone,” she said. This was after our discussion of what to do if Daddy wasn’t home and something happened to me. “I don’t want you to get sick and die.”
“Oh, I know, honey. But this is for if anything happened, like I hurt my leg and couldn’t move, or if I just needed more help than you can give me. It’s not just if I died,” I told you. And I saw that didn’t help. The tears just filled your eyes to spilling.
“But I don’t want anyone to get hurt, Mom. No one. Not even anyone. Not you, or Daddy, or any of my friends. Not even robbers and people in jail. I don’t want anyone to need an ambulance. Ever!”
And I know what you mean. I know full well how you feel when the overwhelming feeling of trying to save everyone pushes down on your heart and your chest. And here’s what I told you, more or less:
There will be times, love, that people will laugh at you. People will tell you to worry about yourself. That people need to take care of themselves, and you can’t concern yourself. To them I say bullshit.
And here is the rest of what I want to say: We need people like you, who care and who love and who, despite the odds, try to help people. Maybe you’ll find a calling one day that serves people. And you’ll probably be poor (because helping people doesn’t pay well), and likely will see more than you think your great big heart can stand, and people will turn away. But we need you to care just the same.
For some reason, in this “great” country of ours, we’ve let our most needy fall through our nets. We see people reaching out for help as a drain on society, rather than an opportunity to show what a truly great nation can do for its most vulnerable. We celebrate the vapid and marginalize the poor. And we need people who are strong hearted and strong willed and strong minded to stand up and say THIS ISN’T RIGHT. Why are homeless mothers living in motel rooms with their children jailed for lying about residence so her child can get a better chance at life, but bankers who pulled the rug out from our nation are left blameless? We need to celebrate those who truly care: those who really would shed a tear for the injustice done to the innocent, or to those guilty of only being born in the wrong zip code.
As you get older, you will learn how to take that feeling of overwhelming anxiety and work to make your spot in the world better. To make a mark – even just a small one. Small marks in a great big world are what make up the change we truly need.
Keep thinking big, Sweet Girl.