“It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish.” Mother Theresa
That’s a pretty well known and ubiquitous quote by Mother Theresa. It’s been co-opted by the folks who believe that life begins at conception and would like to pass laws to that effect in our country. I still remember the sense of shock I had the first time I saw it on a bumper.
I know people who’ve had abortions. Some are very close to me. Is that really what they’d done? I had to think it through. I knew their reasons very intimately. Most had gone on to have children later in adulthood. Having the child would have been disastrous for both child and mother at the time of the pregnancy. Some of the pregnancies were the result of rape, others the result of very protected intercourse but the protection simply failed. In every case, mothers (and fathers) go on to mourn the loss eternally. It is a drastic decision made during a time of crisis in a situation that is kept secret in most cases. Very few terminated pregnancies are made known before they are finished.
It seems to me that it’s become far too easy to make snap judgements, and reduce a nuanced topic, such as abortion, to a pithy sentence and slap it on a bumper sticker to make your sentiments known to everyone else. So I was wondering the other day, which was the real poverty? Who is impoverished? Where are we now that we have polarized ourselves into tidy camps. Right and left. Red and blue. Take it or leave it. For us; against them.
Then LightHusband sent me this story about a feral child discovered in Florida a few years ago. Beware if you read the whole story. It’s very graphic and full of lurid details about the filth the little girl lived in. Terrible really. It’s likely that her biological mother is ill and or at least terribly self-centered. Because of the neglect she suffered, this girl may never be able to talk or communicate on a meaningful level. Her brain may never develop past six or seven years old in terms of her ability to process information. No one really knows. There have only been two or three feral children in recorded history. One in France in the 1880’s and another in California in in the 1970’s that were reported in this news story.
Don’t for a moment make the leap that I am suggesting this child would have been better off aborted. Not at all. No, I am suggesting that we are all impoverished for not knowing. Not knowing our neighbors. Not loving our neighbor. When we do know, we do not take their hands and walk with them, we call CPS. We rely on the law to transform, rather than relationships. We want to make laws, call policemen, stand at an arm’s length away and point out the flaws in one another.
What struck me most about this story was the unknowing. The secrecy. The darkness. The lack of love. That is the nexus that this story has in common with mothers who face the choice to terminate a pregnancy. They make choices in secrecy, without the love and support of most of their network, in crisis; hard, difficult choices that hurt everyone including themselves.
The biological mother in the Florida case had been trying unsuccessfully to keep her family together. She failed catastrophically. When the little girl was found both mother and daughter were nearly in a catatonic state but with different origins. The mother was arrested and convicted for breaking various Florida laws concerning child welfare. She was given a suspended sentence with the proviso that she rescind her maternal rights. So the little girl has been adopted into a home with very caring parents, who are doing their best to help her develop on a more normal trajectory. In many respects the story has a happy ending. The little girl is learning, growing, loving and is loved. Her biological mother is alone. Alone with regrets, blame and an empty home. Many would say that she earned all of that and then some. Maybe my heart is too soft. But then I read Larry Vaughn and I wonder what might have been …
My theme becomes concrete: What would it be like to be known fully and loved completely? Most people know of this tension. Most adults, anyway. Fortunate children know what this is like. But because they don’t know anything different they take the situation for granted. Somewhere along the way to adulthood we start putting price tags on people and become capitalists of humanity. We also pick up a few undesirable qualities along the way.Another meteor.
I am known and I am loved. But not completely. I think my brain would melt from sheer pleasure if the confluence of these two principles ever occurred.
The air is brisk and I cannot hear another sound except for my breathing.
And then I feel it. I am being watched. My anxiety rises. You have had this feeling before, haven’t you? Out of necessity I have become good at paying attention to my surroundings. It is a casualty of my profession.
I look around expecting to see a deer or a raccoon. Maybe a person. Maybe (it’s 2:00am) the dead owner of the abandoned house. Nothing.
My anxiety ebbs but the feeling of being watched doesn’t.
I used to enjoy watching my girls play when they didn’t know I was there. Sometimes they would talk to their dolls or draw pictures or play house. Sometimes they would sing silly songs or have conversations with the air. I always felt a sense of magic when I could witness this play unnoticed. When they played without an audience I always got a sense of purity. Whatever they were doing or saying was complete truth. If you’re a parent you know exactly what I am talking about. Like the feeling of sneaking into the movies, I had a sense that I shouldn’t be here. I wasn’t invited to the tea party or the dance or the play. But as a parent, I couldn’t look away. This always, always made me smile. I tried so hard to be quiet. Partly because I didn’t want to interrupt the beauty. Partly because I didn’t want the tea party to end, which it surely would if my presence were made known.
My feeling of being watched begins to transform. My mind begins to slow down and I stop thinking about thinking about thinking. I am quiet. And still. And small.
Another meteor. Another tear of St. Lawrence.
I am being watched. And the person watching is smiling. Hiding behind a cosmic door. Peeking around the corner.
Another meteor. Another tear.
I am not alone.
My brain begins to melt.
This is a synchroblog on poverty. Please read what my fellow bloggers have to say on the subject below: