I spent a significant chunk of my adolescence and young adulthood working on educating people about the importance of empathy and the dangers of dissociating individuals from the overwhelming statistics that make up their circumstances. As such, I have spent more than the usual amount of time questioning: "What would I do, if this was happening today?" Obviously, we all like to give ourselves the benefit of the doubt and assume that we would stand up and do the right thing...but no one ever knows for sure until they are actually in the unfathomable reality of crisis. For so many Americans, Europeans, and relatively safe peoples around the world, it is all too easy to sit back in complacency and feel too removed to be effected...including myself.
Ever since the current "refugee crisis" first made itself known, I have felt a deep, nagging, urgent sense that I absolutely HAD to do something tangible to help. To practice what I have so often preached, and taken the risk of daring to reach out to people caught up in the overwhelming displacement. But...what could I do? I'm a full time, homeschooling mom, a freelance performer, a stuttered blogger, an amateur photographer...and I'm no where near the epicenter of what's going on and no one was going to come to me for help, and without a buttload of cash, there is nothing I can do to help the poor souls washing up on foreign shores, so far away, anyhow. So I sat back and relegated that nagging need to do something to the bin of misguided dreams, and hid it under a thin veil of justification.
But that didn't last. I am a mom, and that's a visceral reality that I can never truly turn off. Seeing images of these families with young children arriving, soaked, scared, exhausted; watching videos of volunteers wrap tiny children in emergency blankets, and thinking about the long, dangerous journey most of them still have ahead of them, one of my frequent thoughts among the obvious heartbreak is: how are they going to get those kids to continue to travel so far? On limited food and next to no resources, carrying a baby or a toddler on such long travails - often over treacherous terrain - becomes a seriously perilous undertaking. Any rocky slope would necessitate using your hands for stability or to catch yourself...which is next to impossible with an infant in tow. I never used a stroller, for any of my three children, and am therefore very familiar with the comfort, sense of security (for both parent and child), warmth, and safety a baby carrier can provide - not to mention the ease of mobility and having your hands free! I found myself thinking; "If only they had carriers, this would still be hard but it would be so much more doable." But, still, nothing clicked, and I noted that my need to help was growing a healthy layer of guilt around it, but I left it in that discard bin, the veil of justification stubbornly insisting that I have no power.
Until yesterday. Yesterday, I came across a news article about a mom in California, who - just as I had - saw the need for carriers for these families, but unlike me, she didn't let herself rest within that uncomfortable complacency. She grabbed the bull by the horns and said "ok, let's do this." And she asked people to donate carriers, then packed them up, flew to Greece, and personally strapped these babies in safely by fitting each one onto a struggling caretaker. I was in AWE. I cried. In that moment, my hands shaking and my whole being rattled; that need to help threw off that veil, burst out of the discard bin, and manifested in a full, unshakeable form: I had to join her. I have to do this, and not just donate carriers and spread the word...All the work I've done over the years, all the effort I have put in to rallying people, it was all culminating in this moment. This was something I could viscerally relate to, something that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, will help these families in a simple, tangible, and potentially even life saving way, and with the skills I have honed in my years of production and management, it is something actually within my means to do. I absolutely must go there and do this.
So, I am. I have joined her organization, Carry the Future, as a volunteer. Over the coming weeks I will be collecting new or gently used baby carriers* and plan to fly to the Greek Isles (or wherever we are needed) and assist with the direct distribution of these carriers to the families that need them. Not an easy undertaking, I know, but I felt called to do this, and committing to it brought on an enormous wave of relief. I can't be true to myself - or to anything that I aspire to - if I don't get out there and get my hands dirty in an effort to do just a spot of good. And in the end, I will be coming home to a warm, safe, happy home filled with family, support, food, and security...who am I to deny even the tiniest relief to these families who deserve no less, and yet have been caught up in circumstances beyond their control, leaving them with virtually none of it. Regardless of politics, I am sure we can all agree that the children do not deserve any of this. So please, help me to help them.
If you would like to donate a carrier, please let me know. I am working to establish easily accessible drop off points around the area (and have partnered with many other wonderful volunteers to coordinate efforts across the DC metro region, spanning north to Baltimore and south to Richmond), and will be collecting donated carriers at my home and at local meet ups. I may even be able to do some local pickups.
Alternatively, anyone can ship new carriers directly to the organization’s headquarters in California.
I will be doing this in honor of these families, as well as my mom, and of course of my dear friend Zoë, who I know would be right there beside me on this one if she were still around. We lost her last year and never did get to go with her to her family home in Lesbos as she so often said she wanted. I may well see those shores soon, Zoë, and I wish you could be there with me.
For further information about Carry the Future and what we do, please see our website: http://www.carrythefuture.org/
Your help in spreading the word would be greatly appreciated!
Love and peace, all.
*soft structured baby and child carriers only. No car seats, no metal frames, no strollers, no wraps, no slings. Soft Structured Carriers (SSCs) are basically any carrier that has clasps or harnesses, and Mei Teis (square cloth with four ties). A few examples are Baby Bjorn, Kolcraft, MobyGo and Ergo.