Today I awoke to news of a rocket attack that struck multiple buildings and destroyed an open air market in the city of Mariupol Ukraine. Rockets fired from east of the city rained chaos into a community that myself and my friends used to visit often while we worked with the church there over ten years ago as part of the AIM program. Ten year old memories flashed through my mind as I watched explosions igniting apartment buildings and shaking video footage of bodies draped in coats and blankets in familiar streets. I had to dig through layers of tabloid commentary and sensational non news to even find mention of it on American news sites. Did you know Skymall is going out of business? Did you hear that Taylor Swift revealed her belly button in an Instagram picture? I closed the computer windows and sat quietly staring at a blank screen, unsure how to feel.
My 5-year old daughter danced down the stairs into the safety of our basement. Seeing me she sensed that something was wrong. She gently sat down next to me and asked what I was doing. So, I tried to explain. I tried to tell her that the city I had recently shown her on our maps, the one I used to live in, had been shot at with bombs and some people were hurt.
I opened the map and showed her again. And she remembered the stories I had told her. She remembered about my friends, and my family. The adventures and joys we shared. She giggled retelling them.
“Where will they live now?” She asked.
“Well…” I stumbled. “They live there still. That is their home.”
“But won’t they get hurt?” She asked. “Will the bad guys try to hurt them again?”
I scanned across the map a few moments. “Yes.” I tried to keep my voice clear and steady. “Yes, they will probably be scared of that. No one knows what is going to happen in the future.”
She watched for a moment more and then sighed, “I don’t understand.”
“Well,” I pulled her in for a hug. “You are just a little girl.”
“Yes. I’m a little girl, and you are big man. And sometimes little girls don’t understand things that their Daddy does. But that’s okay. Because you understand.” She grinned at me. And I forced myself to smile back.
She danced back up the stairs and left me with my map and my thoughts. A crater of feelings. Her daddy did not understand. But how do you explain THAT to a child?
I thought about fathers in other cities as they laid their little girls down to sleep for the night while the fires still burn in the courtyards. I imagined them struggling to understand. Standing at the window, and watching the sky for something they had no control over. Praying for peace, and struggling to rest in the assurance that they have a father that understands, even if they do not.
In the other room I heard a tower of blocks get knocked over by one of my children as another began crying about how it wasn’t fair. I stood and slowly walked up the stairs.