It only takes one. One little snippet of news, that strikes me in a particular way, and my insides start turning around in messy circles. I can feel my shield of trust start to crack, that blessed thing that keeps me going despite fears and worries and what-if’s. I’m actually not much of a worrier, but I do keep that assumption that everything will be just fine wrapped around me like a favorite quilt. Then something pierces my armor, that soft and gentle armor, and my eyes are opened for awhile to the pain all around me. The weight of the world.
This week, I first heard of the disappearance of a local 8-year-old boy via FB on Monday. His parents had given in to his pleading to walk the 7 blocks home alone from daycamp, practiced it with him on Friday, and Monday afternoon he did so for the first time. Except he never met his mom on the corner as they’d arranged. A massive hunt commenced almost immediately, but in less than 24 hours their worst fears were proved true: he’d been brutally murdered by a local man whom he’d asked for directions.
I can’t begin to imagine the pain, fear, guilt, and horror of those parents and the community at large. I feel it especially keenly because they live so close to me, my son is 9 and walks a few blocks alone at times, and is currently at camp himself. I know what it is to fear and send anyway. To know your child, to set them free, and pray that no harm comes. To know in your heart that you cannot possibly protect them from everything, you can only prepare. Prepare them to make good decisions, to recognize signs, to gauge character, to weigh risks, and to know their limits. Just like my parents did for me. I simply can’t process this family’s pain, but it’s cloaking me today instead of my old quilt of trust.
Sometimes horrific stories land on me like so many raindrops, wetting my quilt but leaving my soul intact. I do care, and I do feel, but it doesn’t make my hair stand on end and my heart stop. Other times, like this week, it gets me to my core and I can’t shake it for many a day. I’m pierced. I watch, feel, pray, hurt, and hold my family a little closer.
Once in a long while, I get this vague sense of the deepest and most achingly huge sadness I’ve ever felt. It washes into every atom in my body, opens my heart, and silently sits there. There are no words, no specific thoughts, no weights, just an endless lake of sorrow. I wonder at it, feel it, and assume I’ve gotten a wee glimpse into the heart of God, the weight of the world, and the sum of humanity. It slips away after a day or two, leaving me thankful, relieved, and slightly more aware of the preciousness and capriciousness of life.