Despite all my best intentions, I can't always shelter her from all of the pain, suffering, tragedy and the truly evil things people can do to each other. I realized this last spring, shortly before school let out here in Tanzania. It had been a normal day, the girls were all at school. I was sitting in the same place I am right now, when I started hearing "booms". I ignored them at first, thinking maybe they were fireworks. But they continued and I had to admit to myself that they seemed much louder than the normal firework. The thought "bomb" crossed my mind, but I didn't give it much attention.
Soon I began receiving texts from friends explaining that there were street riots happening in town over the police trying to physically remove street vendors off the streets (we live close to the center of town) and I should stay home for now. I learned that tear gas was being used. That still didn't explain all the "booms" that continued to go on. I also thought of one of our girls that was across the town in preschool, not in the main school that was close to our house where the other three girls went to school. I made the decision to go get her early. As I was waiting for the taxi to come, a friend wrote and told me the loud booming noises were from "stun grenades". I had no idea what they were and googled them. I learned they were non-lethal grenades and used with tear gas sometimes. I was grateful for that information, because though I still startled with every boom I heard and knew it meant people were hurt and scared (which in and of itself was awful), I knew at least that people were not being bombed and killed.
It was a long day. Thankfully I was able to get my daughter without problems. The streets were quiet and other than young men running from the market area we encountered no problems. It was 10 hours of loud "booming", though. The other three girls came home from school in the afternoon, they seemed fine overall, kids are resilient. But when I asked my oldest daughter about what had been explained to her at school about the noises she told me that she had been told they were "bombs". I asked her what she thought that meant and she told me she thought people were killing each other.
It struck me that she had sat in class all day thinking people were dying. I explained to her that though there are bombs that kill people that is not what that noise was today and though people were hurt and scared, people were (hopefully) not being killed. She was reassured. And I couldn't help but think about other moms around the world that hear bombs and wonder about their children at school and don't have the assurance google brought to me, that instead of non-lethal means being used, family and friends were dying. I wondered about the conversations they had with their children about bombs that do kill and what that does to the hearts of little children.
Last week, Natalie again was faced with human cruelty. We found out the neighbor of a friend had had acid thrown on his face and chest and was in critical condition at the local hospital. I tried to make sure Natalie wasn't around when it was brought up, but she overheard from someone else a couple days later. How do you explain to a child why someone would do such an awful act to someone else? I floundered. Most of all I was at a loss, because I don't have the answers myself even though I know that evil (sin) exists and the world is a broken place. Still, on a heart level, I just cannot grasp such cruelty and I don't know how to explain things like this to a child. And again, I wondered about other mothers and what they are having to explain to their children around the world.
Natalie came home from school with these prayer flags shortly after the street riots last spring. "I hope Isla never ever get killed buy a bane (bomb)." And, "I hope my dad never ever gets a bad infecssen (infection) ever agan".
Lately, I have been talking to Natalie a lot about beauty and goodness, the awe-inspiring world we live in. The God who created it all. About love and kindness. About helping the person in your path and never withholding forgiveness and grace. About being a person of peace. I don't know if they are answers, but somehow I find that when my eyes are turned in the direction of a loving God, the world He made, and the love of my family and friends, a peace comes that I cannot explain. That we are never alone, even in the darkest moments. Immanuel.