Suffer Little Children

(Picture taken with the Children of the Kindergarten at the opening of a new extension in Velyki Didushychi in Ukraine)

Over the past few weeks, there has been within me a struggle, not my first.  This struggle was not of the mind but within my soul.  Much of it was personal, relating to current issues, but more of it, I felt, was more global – outside the bounds of my soul to understand.  There were glimmers of what was “not right”, inclinations of basic concerns but really no appreciation of what was really amiss.  The past few days have been particularly sensitive.
My life is relatively stable, my work is mostly balanced and the environment and the weather has been very summerish – what more would one want.  But something has been out of place pushing my emotions close to the surface and tears could flow without any provocation and inner feelings were most intense.  The big question – why? 

This morning a glimpse of my despair became evident through a very positive experience.  I had been invited to participate in a kindergarten opening (daycare/preschool) in the Village of Velyki Didushychi, a small village in Stryi region of Ukraine.  This event provided a reminder of what is truly important in this life.  Somehow the mendacities of life had surrounded me.  Life’s negativities had displaced its richness.  On this very auspicious occasion, simple folk had gathered to celebrate the new extension that they have just completed to this very old facility.  This event won’t make global headlines, Ukrainian news, or perhaps even the regional papers as there are more dynamic issues at play in this country.  But for this community and in my world it was seismic and helped shift my focus to what is important.

The event started with a presentation of bread by three very young children to me – a tradition here when greetings guests.  The local Priest started the proceeding with blessings on all who attended, those who had participated and the facility itself.  The children, all under seven, provided a very robust entertainment program acknowledging their parents and especially their mothers for their love and care.  Then the Mayor provided his commentary offering thanks and certificates to all who had contributed.  What struck a chord in his presentation was his suggestion that it all began with a “dream”.   There were many accolades to the “donors” those who gave money to make it happen and recognition of the parents who did the real work of construction – pulling down the interior of the building and putting it back together.  This new facility will increase the capacity of this small facility by 30 children.

A very dynamic and emotional part of the whole proceedings was a short presentation by the lead parent who had initiated this activity and obviously motivated others to contribute.  Her tearful acknowledgement of their “accomplishment” was evident enough of the significance of this event.  This was truly a “mega-project” in the context of this small community and a fundamental shift for a community who had been part of a system which considered local action inappropriate unless it was decreed.

My mind was animated during these proceedings and my soul humbled.  Here were people celebrating something fundamentally important to the community but giving most of the accolades to the external “donors” while mildly acknowledging the locals who gave money, as well as doing all the work.  The focus of my short presentation was to remind everyone of their contribution and commitment, without which, nothing would have happened.  My mind contemplated whether the government of Canada even knew much less appreciated the significance of this moment and would they even recognize their contribution – such a tiny component of budgets that eclipse reality.  The number of zeros after the decimal point before it got to a real number as a percentage of the Canadian budget is hard to fathom.  Yet in this tiny village this was a major event and a significant accomplishment.

But enough said about this particular moment of today.  The point of this dissertation is the fact that my soul has been out of sorts, my emotions have been fragile and my spirit has been restless and ill at ease.  There have been other factors affecting my life but something very deep has been floating close to the surface.

Over the past several weeks in my news watching on the internet there has been shootings in schools in the United States ad Canada, there has been kidnapping of children, apparently by pedophiles, and apparently two women so stressed by work and life forgot to put their children in daycare and went to work oblivious of the fact these children were in the car all day, and subsequently, they died.  There were stories each day of the people killed in wars (many women and children) as people vie for power and control over each other.   The media mostly gloss over this, as they print the machinations of politicians who are all vying for control over the environment, global economies and the world – each advocating ways and means to solve global warming, globalization and containment of the Asian economic juggernaut that is rapidly expanding.

What appears to me is a world full of woe. People are so hyped by the need for cash and material things or prestige and power that they don’t realize that civility and even human civilization appears to be collapsing around us.  So engrossed are most of us in the symptoms that we are missing the disease.  This is a disease that would be curable with something as simple as reclaiming our humanness.  It only requires humane approaches to alleviate most of the suffering of the world and begin the process of solving the other mega-issues.

It took a small rural village in Ukraine to open my eyes today and provide an insight into one of the world’s real dilemmas.  This dilemma rests in our relationship with our children – they are the future – we are mostly the past.  If we don’t provide for their future, and an environment that nurtures, then their will be no future.  Most importantly if we place little value on the care of our children a future for them will be distressing at best.  The economy, ecology and which basis of “power” is right will have little meaning– if the reality is that human life, as we know it, will not exist – not because of economy or global warming – but because of our loss of our “humanness”.  Humanness is our very special gift, one not given to any other living creature, and our biggest responsibility.  The world will exist without us; we mostly forget that it once did.  How it will affect the realm of the spiritual world, where our gift emanated from, and of which we know so little, is another dimension.

Ukrainian Kindergarten
Ukrainian Kindergarten

My realization today, is that for the past several weeks I have been engrossed in the physical world of thought and reason, and have been ignoring the spiritual world where feeling and emotions prevail.  The feelings and emotions which I have experienced are reminders of what is important.  A small village in Ukraine obviously was recruited to assist.

Today I re-learnt something, just one more time.  It is something I have been taught on many occasions – what is important in life.  This tiny “project” insignificant in this global world held within its completion one secret of life.  Some would suggest that it provided a sense of achievement – inspiring people to more.  Others would say how this project improved people’s lives.  And still others would attest to the service it will provide to the families of the Village of Velyki Didushychi.  But this misses the real significance of this small endeavour.

The real significance of this community initiative was in the realm of the spiritual not in sphere of thought or reason.  The mayor in his reference to a dream touched on one aspect.  Others suggested it was “donors” and the money that they provided. Perhaps, they really missed the magnitude of what has happened.

My rationale, in the brief summary which they requested of me, suggested that its significance lay elsewhere.  Money, in and by itself has little use.  Dreams are in everyone’s domain yet most often lie fallow.  The real motivation in this particular community accomplishment was related to something much more basic and fundamental.  It was vested in love – in the love people had for their children.  They wanted to provide the space, the socialization, the education and the well being that they thought was important.  One might argue that there are other ways for this to happen in a modern world, but in the case of this village, this is the way that they knew or felt was necessary.  Most important, they loved their children enough to make it happen.  This love was evident in the tearful presentation by the woman leader as she tried to explain the importance of this initiative to her child.  It was evident among all the parents who came to be with their children in this very auspicious (but minute) moment in the community’s history.

Perhaps all of us could take a cue from the Village of Velyki Didushychi.  Instead of grandiose schemes to address global warming, mega media events to address poverty and fiscal divides and ever more push on people to accumulate wealth and secure “their” futures; we should reflect upon our diminishing sense of humanness, our loss of feelings for those in despair and our growing insular nature to protect what we have.  Then, perhaps, we might be able to address the more global issues that impact us all.  Just like this small village, change and development will only happen in very small portions, mostly by engaging people in the things that are important to them.  These are not necessarily based on fiscal need, but on a love of life and a love for every soul that inhabits this planet.  And, most importantly, we can start with our love for children the most precious of life’s gifts.


Written by Bill Pardy

 June 2nd, 2007

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