Monday, March 8, 2010

Reality Check

I sometimes pride myself in my sarcastic, dry humor, the constant bitching reminiscent Woody Allen or Seinfield, you know “What’s the deal with …?” Well last night while watching a certain documentary all my bitching seemed in vain, and actually vain. The documentary was “God Grew Tired of Us,” a Sundance winner from 2006 about the lost boys of Sudan. These boys, the victims of Sudan’s civil war, lost everything: family, friends, homeland, food, clothes and many their lives. The film showed images of the starving Africans similar to what I remember from first “We are the World.” Somehow last night the starving children seemed so much more real to me. It could have been that we were watching this with my daughter who is only 5. At first I thought about shielding her eyes, that she is too young to see this, but then we talked about what was happening and why, in terms she could understand and wouldn’t scare her. This is after all a reality in life, maybe not our life but for many children. I know it sounds cliché but I told her that all the food she wastes or doesn’t like (my daughter is a very picky eater) that these children would love to have it, and that sometimes they go days with hardly any and sometimes no food. I did it – I pulled the “starving children” routine. This time, though, it dawned on me that it is true. There are starving children, and I complain about not getting to eat out at restaurants (I’ll explain about my dietary restrictions from Celiac Disease in an upcoming blog) or my children complain that they don’t like a meal I’ve cooked.

A word I’ve been hearing a lot lately is entitled, that today’s children feel entitled and don’t want to have to work hard for what they feel they deserve. I would say that I am that way, that I expect certain standards and am disappointed when I don’t get them, even if I haven’t lifted a finger to earn it.

Some of the Lost Boys eventually end up in America, and that is when the real lesson hits home. They learn about showers, indoor toilets, food in a bag, grocery stores, all the things we are all used to. It seems absurd really, when you see our lifestyle through their eyes. Some of the boys flourish but many of them still seem lost, missing the camaraderie of the other boys or the families they lost in the war. We see America as an isolated, individualistic place, every man for himself. And it made me sad. It also made me want to do better, to complain less and be grateful more. I have a lot to be grateful for and sometimes my personality, and, yes, even my tendency to neuroticism, can get in the way. Life is pretty good, really good actually. I want my children to see that and to see that it isn’t that way everywhere. But the beauty of this documentary is that many of the boys, despite all their suffering, were still looking on the bright side. I’m not going to say that it was all roses because it isn’t a Hollywood movie but a true story. Many of the boys definitely had culture shock and most likely posttraumatic stress. But they were still going, still moving forward, and many looked back to help those that were still in the refugee camp and in their country of Sudan.

The movie reminded me of what I have, what my children have. It’s easy to get caught up in wanting more, wishing for what I don’t have (that is part of American culture – bigger is better, more is better), but I want to get away from that, even if it’s just a little bit every day. When I get cynical, overwhelmed, frustrated…I want to remember the Lost Boys.

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