I opened my Facebook newsfeed this morning and pictures flooded my vision. An article posted by the Daily Mail crying out about orphans found starving in Belarus. Where’s Belarus? I’ve never heard of that place, but I imagine that before the holocaust, Auschwitz and Ravensbruk were not recognizable names either.
I looked through the pictures and they were horrifying. It was in stark contrast to my tranquil morning, where I was sipping coffee on my couch as my kids ran around with pancake syrup sticky on their cheeks, still wearing last night’s fuzzy pajamas.
But it wasn’t the pictures of the vacant eyes, the toothpick legs with skin, or the skeleton body contorted and twisted that gripped me. No, it was the picture of the metal cups.
The damn metal cups, do you see the metal cups? They contain liquid nutrition; without an ounce of dignity. They represent no choice, no love, and insufficient calories. When I scrolled to the pictures of the metal cups, my heart stumbled. Because honestly, I had not correlated this article to my son, to my child named Israel. I have become so far removed from his experience, that I failed to see the obvious.
I remember visiting Israel in the orphanage in Eastern Europe and they insisted on showing me that they fed him. They wanted me to see him eat. And they brought in this metal cup, just like the ones in the picture above. And his little hands shook as he tried to show me, his new mama, that he was worthy of my love because he could eat out of a metal cup. And I never really understood how that metal cup defined his day, his freedom, his worth. A metal cup was the difference between a twisted skeleton lying emaciated, and a boy capable of being a human. A human that was worthy and valued.
With Israel it is easy to become removed from that metal cup. He no longer resembles that boy we brought out of the orphanage. He eats pizza and chicken nuggets and his very favorite is mac’n’cheese. And partly this is a blessing, but I also think it’s a disservice.
Israel is the story. He is the witness that has come out of the dark places to show us the truth. Our sweet son Israel held the metal cup and lived to speak truth. He lived to show a world the worth and value of a small boy. He came home emaciated and I can see how in years to come, he could have been pictured in a news article. A tragic story of skeletal orphans starving and dying in Eastern Europe. Perhaps I would have stumbled across his story in my newsfeed and been horrified, but I would have finished my coffee, wiped up the pancake syrup and dressed my children for their day. I would have been moved by his story, but I would have suffered from indifference. I would have seen the picture, but failed to see the cause.
We have the ability to see these pictures, feel completely powerless to fix things, and talk ourselves out of action. But we cannot remain silent when the cause is right before us. We cannot be indifferent and not be culpable. We can’t pretend this isn’t happening, that this is isolated. If we choose to look away, and allow borders and boundaries to contain our outrage and outcry, we have chosen to be INDIFFERENT.
I shared these pictures today and I know that we are all outraged. I know that we cannot look at the images and not feel repulsed and angry and hope someone does something. Systemically this is an overwhelming crisis, but individually it is not. What we are failing to see, is the parallel between these practices and the millions of Jews who died in concentration camps. They died because individuals decided they were an inferior race, and the world looked away. The world chose to turn a blind eye of indifference and hope that someone else would step in. So we pause and we look at this issue and we fail to see the human child.
Sometimes I read comments or field questions that truly inflame me. I know they are well-meaning, but I think if we can say it about the holocaust, we can relate it to orphans. People want to place a reason, an excuse or justification behind the maltreatment. I hear things like, “what disability do they have?” or “that’s not in my country”. And I am telling you all right now, that we are accountable to do something, regardless of the disability or the location.
So I boldly say, do not turn away, stand silent, or go about your day. Don’t look at my son, Israel and fail to see what happened when a group of people chose to see the value in one human and helped bring him home. He is our witness, a voice for those that have been silenced by indifference.
Give to an orphan here: www.reecesrainbow.org
Give to the medical humanitarian trip I’m leaving for in June, here: http://www.oneheart-bg.org/
Adopt, Foster, Advocate, Donate….just don’t be a silent witness.