Monday, December 21, 2009

The Match Stick

There are some things that you have control over, and others that are so overwhelmingly out of your own hands that all you can do is have faith that you will pull through. For us, the difficulty is heartbreak like that which we have never known. We lost our baby boy, five months into the pregnancy. I am working through the grief day by day, writing about him, and learning to live with a sense of loss which I now fully realize may never dim. My family have been the legs on which I have stood for the past four weeks, and for this I will forever be grateful.
For others, the recession in which we find ourselves in has been like being placed in a deep pool of water and told to tread. We have no idea how long we are going to have to tread water because no one knows when this thing will end. We just know that if we are to survive, we have to keep treading. The recession hit us personally too, but I think we have reached a point where we are used to it. I say this because I have found myself in a position where I worry about others more so than ourselves. We are struggling too, but not in the sense that I have witnessed others. So many others have already lost their jobs, their homes, and in some cases their family due to the pressure of the struggle. This last loss is the one that bothers me most.
A few months back I was reviewing a Scandinavian cookbook and the Hans Christian Anderson tale of The Little Match Stick Girl was mentioned in the book. I had not heard the tale in quite some time. Later that day, when the children were napping, I pulled the book off the shelf and read the story in its original form. It was heart wrenching. In it is the story of how a child is sent into the streets in the middle of a snowy winter with ragged clothes and no shoes to sell match sticks. She sells none and is met with a city of apathy. In vain she tries to one by one light the matches to keep herself warm. She envisions a stove, a magnificent dinner of Holiday goose, a beautiful soaring Christmas tree, and at long last her loving Grandmother- who is seen only as the little girl lights all of the remaining matches in an attempt to hold onto the vision of her loved one. The little girl dies of exposure in the streets. This is no Cinderella fairy tale with a happy ending.
I think this story struck me especially hard this year because of the plight so many families find themselves in this Holiday season. The dire situation in Wilmington, Ohio was aired for the world to see on 60 Minutes last night. This town is in our backyard here in Ohio and it has been especially hard to watch these hard working people struggle to maintain some sense of home the past year. Ten thousand lost jobs is going to take a long time to recover- if recovery is possible in Wilmington at all. I think to myself, despite all of our struggle, we have so much. I cannot help but think that this Christmas morning will be a difficult one for me to really enjoy- knowing in my heart that for so many this one will only exemplify how dire the situation is. It is awfully difficult to explain to a child why Santa did not come.
I urge you to do two things, and do them soon. Go through your home, each and every nook, and donate whatever you have that you do not need. It is best if you can put things directly into someone's hands that need them, but if you cannot, a local shelter is a good place to contact. Second, read the story of The Little Match Stick Girl. Tell it to your children and explain how difficult things are for some families even today. What this world needs most right now is a strong dose of anti- apathy. Children are the most giving of souls and if we can start with them there is always hope for our future.
Note: The illustration above is from a children's book by Debbie Lavreys and it tells the story of The Little Match Stick Girl in a way children can understand.