Sunday, July 29, 2007

Relative Suffering

Hobbling around on my ankle yesterday, I bumped into the woman who owns my Pilates studio, and she asked me how I am feeling and I answered "So-so." She knew, because we had discussed it last week, that I received a Grade II Ankle Sprain, and yet I got a five minute lecture about the power of positive thinking, that what I give out is what I get back (some version of the Law of Attraction), and that I need to start being a "half glass full" kind of person.

I have never been a fan of the "children are starving in Africa"/Clean Plate Club speech, nor do I jump for joy when someone tries to comfort me at a time of severe stress with the "G-d only gives us what we can handle" speech. I do believe a la Chaos Theory that there is a larger plan, and that my smallest view of the world cannot possibly take into account all the factors that are in play in a particular situation, and its ripple effect. But let me tell you that as someone who can count on one hand the number of times in my life when I have had a serious injury, this ankle sprain has given me pause for thought.

Since my injury, I have to think every time I get up from a chair, or see a flight of stairs. I had to ask a friend to do my supermarket shopping, because I could not imagine spending more than five minutes on my feet, wandering through a store. I cannot attend another friend's wedding tonight, because no one has room in their car and I am unable to drive. Needless to say, I have not participated in swimming or any substantial movement for the last four days.

I have always had issue with aging and crotchety old people, I would only like to live to 120 if I can do so in well-ness, that I would be able to basically take care of myself and enjoy an active lifestyle. I have also always had issue with asking for help, and if this ankle injury has taught me anything, it has shown me not only that I can ask for the assistance, but that my friends will reply with warmth.

Now we get to play the Relative Suffering game: last week, the same week as my fall, a group of teenagers went out on a hiking trip in the middle of the desert at the heat of the day, with no water. One of them died during the hike, another died within the first 24 hours after the rescue, and several others are in critical condition. In response, their ultra-Orthodox teachers issued a press release stating that their students' physical condition does not concern them, but rather their spiritual health; ultra-Orthodox students on vacation are now advised not to travel around the country because they may be exposed to a "poisonous" secular element. (The article was accompanied by a photo of two ultra-Orthodox men wearing thong bikinis and frolicking in the water, with their guts hanging over. Too much information, and not quite the modesty that their teachers would have preferred.)

Last week, the same week I was tested by my helplessness, a man left his nine month old child in the car, while he went into the car garage, only went back to check on his child when he got a call from his wife; and found his baby dehydrated, with second and third degree burns, dead. The paper, in reporting the funeral of this child, said that the mother complained bitterly, and the father was the only person not crying among the 250 plus attendees of the funeral. I don't expect that marriage to last past the shiva.

So I don't get to complain about my ankle, there are far worse tragedies in my little country, and I should be grateful to be alive. G-d only gives us what we can handle, and what doesn't kill us, makes us stronger; the cliches we invent to make us feel better.

The police have said that they will wait to question the father for negligent homicide until after the week of mourning has concluded, that the family has "suffered enough" with the loss of their child. In this modern life of bureaucracy, you need to take classes and tests for almost everything- gun permits, driver's license, Sororities, professional credentials- yet, there are no tests for becoming a parent, the most difficult and responsible and significant job for any lifetime. Any child after the age of 12 can have sexual relations and get pregnant, bring a child into the world and then, oops, leave it in car to die a horrible drawn out death.

This is not the first story I have heard of parents forgetting their young children in a car, or at home by themselves, leading to their death, nor will it be the last, unfortunately. I have seen people more concerned about their dog, opening a window for them when they leave them in a vehicle.

Our children must come first.

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