I’m sitting on my porch one warm, sunny morning with birds waking up; some sing melodiously, others emit somewhat annoying repetitive chirps.
Across the street is the old three-storey brick village educational institution which now serves the elderly in well-appointed apartments. Buses no longer line the street. No talkative child expresses joy at seeing their friends for the day.
Now residents occasionally stroll from their homes to the nearby commercial area, pulling small service carts; a few jokes can often be exchanged between us about the weather and local events. It’s a quiet scene.
Then my curious mind has a trip in store for me. The constant disturbing news of a world conflict gathered from newspaper accounts swirls in my mind. Feeling powerless to change it, I can only pray. In a mind-generated vision, I see the building across the street totally destroyed by artillery fire, some parts still standing in tatters, others in ruins; open window openings with broken frames hanging limply.
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All the scenes from the television news are replayed for me. Outside, the surviving residents move about discouraged. Some dig through the rubble for a lost treasure, perhaps a family photo, a small ceramic animal once given to Grandma by a preschooler, anything to hang a keepsake on. Others, discouraged, stare blankly at the destruction, no doubt brooding over a very uncertain future.
I come back from this brief mental odyssey, all the destruction erased, everything back to normal. I’m glad the visions were just that. I can live here safe and sound and still feel connected to many people around the world who live in serious and troubling conditions.
I know I have little power other than a wallet to bring about some semblance of change. However, I find it hard to bear my neighbour’s little grievances concerning the weather or the noise from the street.
Many of us live lives circumscribed by limited circles of consciousness, but I had the dubious fortune of traveling and serving in troubled countries struggling with day-to-day livelihoods. Last weekend, we entertained visitors who had 48 hours to leave their homes in St. Petersburg, Russia, with two children and three suitcases. They travel across the country to his parents’ home in Seattle.
What did they see sitting with me on the porch? As we talked about our lives, they were no doubt partly engrossed in the visions they had recently experienced. Were there serious mixed emotions juxtaposed against this period of calm, as images of destruction in the land they called home raced through their minds?
Having never experienced such serious events, I can only imagine their thoughts. We found some solace when the couple described a network of friends caring for the street children and orphans they had to leave behind. In addition, their contacts in Ukraine continued to bring needed food and supplies to these scenes of disruption.
A desperate result of my mind travels: I find myself drifting away from friends who cannot see life holistically and who persist, without foresight, in turning trivial irritants into disastrous events.
So, friends. I may be away for a trip or two. Many destinations attract me. But don’t expect postcards; the news could destabilize you.