In an instant, we can lose someone we love.
Our parents will not live on earth forever.
Slicing the darkness with my minivan, I followed the lines of the interstate and finally absorbed the magnitude of the day.
The October day could have been mistaken for July. My son’s day-long smile made me feel warmer inside than the bright sun and my daughter was blissfully losing her voice as she squealed and chattered, pretending to be a mermaid, all day long.
Still dripping, I finally sat at a chair a few feet from the pool steps; the perfect perch to watch my fish children. My hands and feet resembled raisins, my nails pliable as a tissue.
Listening to the Atlantic crash behind me, I took a deep breath and tried to capture the day in my memory. I wanted to remember my children on this day, at this age.
Then something alarming caught my eye: a grown man flailing at the steps of the hotel’s three-foot pool.
Huh? Is he playing?
Then I saw blood. I stood.
I recognized the flailing man.
We later concluded that my dad had hit his head under the slide at the hotel pool. He came down the slide and didn’t realize he was under it. He stood. When he did, he cut his head. He was escorted to the hospital via ambulance. Paramedics, impressed by his deep wound, wrapped him in clean gauze (rather than the hotel pool towel we had used before their arrival). The local ER doc patched him with 15 (at least!) staples and my daddy was back from the hospital in time to hug my kids and show off his new “head cast” (bandage) before my kids and I headed back home for the night. My kids were comforted to see and hug PopPop.
While I spent the evening minimizing the injury to comfort my kids as well as allay concern for my dad, I finally processed the events in my mind as we drove home.
It could have played out much differently…
No matter our age, we desire to have a parent. Or parents.
It’s ingrained in us. This is why God tells us even He is our Father. We WANT a parent. A loving person who is there for us always and who accepts us no matter what.
A reliable source.
But not everyone has this. In fact, too many do NOT have this. According to worldorphan.com there are 153,000,000 orphans worldwide.
Who gently swipes the hair off their forehead when they are lying on the couch with a low fever? Do they even have a couch to lie on? Who gets them three clean blankets and tucks them in bed in just the right places to protect them from nighttime monsters?
Who says, “That’s my boy!” when he unearths a long worm or scores a goal at soccer?
Who dotes over the beautiful girl who sees her lips with lip gloss for the first time? Or hangs crayon artwork on the fridge and encourages the young artist?
Who sits on the edge of the pool and watches little swimmers? Just sitting, watching, smiling, correcting, being there? Always?
I am at capacity with mothering three kids and soon to welcome a fourth. I feel tired. I have to “plan” time to trim my toenails and it takes me a week or two before I finally remember to get to it. I eat yogurt and peanut butter and jelly for lunch daily. Bits of my kitchen cabinets are constantly coated in something sticky, no matter how often I wipe them clean. Diapers are more essential in my house than milk and baby gates in front of bathrooms and steps are part of my custom décor.
I find snail shells and pennies in my washing machine EVERY time I do laundry, and occasionally I get the surprise of Playdough or silly putty. My carpets could be shampooed weekly and my couch? Well, let’s not even. Just swipe the crumbs off before sitting and deal.
Still, God tells me to care about the orphans. How am I doing that?
When I realize that I could be an orphan (even as an adult) and I consider the fact that we never “out grow” our need for our parents, I am suddenly hit with this statistic like a brick wall. This is real. This affects me. This affects you.
I’m not going to solve the orphan epidemic of the world. I’m not even going to do it for one country. Or one city.
In and of myself, I’M not going to do anything about it at all. Because, like I said, I’m TIRED. I’m at capacity. Some days I’m grumpy, frustrated or selfish and just want to be left alone. Some days, I’m not even close to an example of Jesus.
Other days, the more I see and experience God, the more I crave Him. The more I study Him, the more I know that I need Him to give me wisdom, patience and endurance. I NEED HIM. I cannot do it on my own.
So how will I show great love to a child (or children) whose parents have died or abandoned them due to NO FAULT OF THAT CHILD.
If my dad’s injury had taken a whole different turn and I was left “parentless,” I can promise you I would feel lonely. The loneliness would be of a different level than I’ve ever experienced. My mom died five years ago, so having my dad alive is even more “important” than ever. I have friends who have lost both parents – some at the same time – and the sense of longing for them to “come back” never fades.
What does it look like for ME and YOU to obey God in caring for and loving orphans?
How easy it is to not even think about this. In America, we have our full, busy days and we work hard to clothe, house, feed and meet medical needs of our children.
We easily forget the millions in the world who are starving – physically and emotionally. Who have nobody to call mom or dad.
My heart is broken. NOW. Right at this second. Too often, however, I simply don’t think about it. I want to feel this brokenness every day because God feels it every day.
What do we do about it? We have to do more than shake our head at its sadness. What do we DO?
You may have lost one or both of your parents. Maybe you KNOW what it feels like to be an orphan. What do we do?
I am going to end here because I want us to feel uncomfortable for the horror that is real life. I want us to finish reading this feeling frustrated. I can’t end this with a “pretty” little ending that ties into the beginning.
While I don’t know the answer for each of us, I do know that doing nothing is NOT the answer for any of us.
I’d love you to share your thoughts on this. It needs to be talked about. Share this with your friends and family. Get them talking. Get us all putting this at the forefront of our minds. If you and I don’t, then who will? How do we start obeying God and DOING?