Madwoman Out of the Attic

a feminist trudging forward in a patriarchal world

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Crying With China

When I listen to touching or sad stories on NPR, often tears come to my eyes. Sometimes they fall down my cheeks. Rarely do I start having to catch my breath because I’m really crying

Last Wednesday was one of those rare times. It was a devastating story about a young Chinese couple frantically searching for their young child in the rubble of a collapsed apartment buiding. Two days had passed since the earthquake, but this couple still had hope their son and some grandparents were still alive.

Maybe it’s because my toddler is exactly the same age as their toddler. Maybe it’s because of the heart-wrenching wail of the mom towards the pile of rubble, “Wang, Mom is coming for you!”, is exactly what I would have wailed. Maybe it’s because of that final description of the dead boy cradled in his dead grandfather’s arms.

I cried for a good 20 minutes over this story. And when I had finally gotten myself together, it struck me that I was profoundly grateful for that story. Grateful. What a strange emotion towards something that had made me so sad.

Hearing this couple’s agony was devastating, but it also made me feel… human. So many days of my life I just do my thing in my comfortable life. I bristle with annoyance at bad drivers, I try to maintain patience in the face of toddler tantrums, I buy the groceries. I am encircled in the everyday.

But to have those few moments when I absolutely transcend the mundane, when I feel a stranger’s pain and mourn with those who mourn, when I feel overwhelmed with empathy - it was exhilarating and awful and wonderful. These were moments of infinite depth, moments where my soul recognized a sister and brother a world away, moments where I truly felt my humanity and my oneness with God’s children.


Blogger alise said...

I had a moment similar to yours while at the gym watching CNN. A young boy, about Hunter's age, was horrifically disfigured by a bomb in Iraq. He and his family were staying in the U.S. so that he could have multiple surgeries and treatments (I was not only sad, but extremely angry). And here I was, leisurely exercising in a wealthy, safe suburbia, worried about being too fat, while this family struggled to make their son whole again. We hear things like "over 100,000 people were killed" in a Tsunami, or tens of thousands died in an earthquake in China, and somehow, maybe because it's so unfathomable, I feel sad, but I'm not as affected as I am when I hear personal stories. Just reading what you wrote, and picturing a little boy with his grandpa...So sad for that family....x thousands.

5/21/2008 11:37 PM  
Anonymous Jay said...

I don't have a lot of time for China as a nation. The way they treat both humans and animals is appalling to my Western eyes and I've heard too many tales of shoddy/dangerous goods coming into the UK (and the US) from that source. But I cried in exactly the same way as you over this news footage, because in the end they are people, and they are suffering. The items about parents searching for children are heart-breaking. the items about the emergency services doing their stuff are touching and inspirational. And you have to admit that China has handled this tragedy a whole lot better than Burma has handled theirs.

6/03/2008 1:35 AM  
Blogger Caroline said...

Alise, I agree. It's those personal stories that make you feel sick in the gut.

Jay, I agree, China's government sure has its problems. But like you said, they are like a shining beacon of light and goodness compared to Burma.

6/03/2008 8:00 PM  

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