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Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

October 11, 2014

Don't Sweat The Small StuffI was sitting at the kitchen table with my tea, thinking about the gang of teens that will be arriving here tomorrow for a birthday party, wondering how to preserve the pile of apples and pears piled up on the counter top, ignoring the jobs I should be tackling next on this busy autumn Saturday morning, when the tears began to well up and trickle down my cheeks…

I was scrolling through twitter, different updates catching my eye and passing through the screen when a photo came into my timeline, then another and another.. Images of people living trapped in a dusty, war-torn country, scarves wrapped around them to protect them from the sand, or perhaps to hide them from unfriendly eyes. I use the word ‘living’ loosely as what kind of life must they be experiencing right now, running, hiding, barely existing. One image in particular caught my attention and I stopped the aimless middle finger flicking, clicking onto it so that it was full size on my screen. The photographer had captured a dark-eyed girl, perched in the back of a packed, rusty, pick up truck, fear ingrained on her young face. A younger boy gazed over at her, a look of deep concern on his own. The child was a similar age to my own daughter, yet the image that crashed into my world exposed the chasm that separates them.

As I write this my heart is physically aching for the children in war and disease ripped countries, and their parents if they’re still alive. And I feel so helpless. There’s nothing at all I can do for these strangers in another land. Nothing I can do to stop their hardship and calm their fear of barbaric men who are planning to attack their villages, maim, rape and kill them.

I look at my own kids who haven’t noticed my silent tears and I want to reach out and hug them, hold them tightly, protect them from our turmoil filled world. I worry that the chances of them growing old and leading a carefree life similar to my own are becoming less and less certain. I fear for them. But I can’t tell them that of course. As their mother I have to silence my concerns, remain cheerfully optimistic for them. But however much I try I can’t completely protect them. A busy life in a technological age that enables them to see stark images themselves will make sure they’re not sheltered. Tales from school already have them worrying about Ebola…

Those images today have made me more thankful than ever for the lives we lead. As far as I possibly can, I’ve decided not to sweat the small stuff and it’s likely as a result of recent news stories, I’ll be letting my kids get away with things I might ordinarily have picked them up on (but don’t tell them that). I’ll be watching them, spending more time with them, giving them hugs when they least expect it and can’t shrug me away as young teens often do. I’ll be driving them to their activities, perhaps handing out the odd fiver for phone credit without complaint and I’ll be stopping what I’m doing to really listen to them. I might not be able to help the children in the images, but they’ve helped to remind me just how utterly precious my own are and how we should all be living ‘in the moment’ as much as we can.

I was chatting with our smiley, cheerful eleven year old recently and remember saying something along the lines of “there’s plenty enough time for you to be thinking about that when you’re older…” her response: “I might not be alive to grow old if everything I hear on the news is true…”