I wrote last about a transcendent snuggle between Juno and myself.

Tonight, I rock her back to sleep after a bad dream, but unlike last time, it’s depressingly hollow comfort. The snuggle is full of gentle, whispered breathing, and tiny hands, and all the normal comforts of contact. But mentally, I am elsewhere.

Our neighborhood is currently receiving Venezuelans by the busload, more than our strained city can accommodate. They arrived in t-shirts in December. In Colorado. They are fleeing political and financial instability so intense that millions of refugees are seeking asylum. Somehow, impossibly, staying in a tiny cramped hotel room in Denver with and lice and bedbugs and hostile employees is better for them than what they left behind.

And I’m willing to bet you haven’t heard about it. Because there are greater horrors happening in Gaza, and the world, or maybe the 24 hour news cycle, or instagram’s algorithm, can only hold space for so much horror before collapsing in on itself.

And here is Juno in my lap, with Christmas presents under her tree and new fleece pajamas. When down the street, my adopted family of Venezulans sleep on bedbugs, and across the world, children sleep permanently beneath the rubble of buildings.

When I was working in curriculum development, my team and I spent the better half of a year creating a unit of study on the importance of bearing witness. To the holocaust specifically.

And yet, with all that study under my belt, with all the ripe understanding of the importance of bearing witness, I’ve found myself reticent to post anything about it. In part because leftist rhetoric, of which I probably subscribe, is also being used unscrupulously to scapegoat and prejudice people with unintended and unattended outcomes.

But more so, admittedly, I have been so deeply uncomfortable bearing witness to something that does not affect me the same way it is affecting my high school best friend who lives in Tel Aviv. I am uncomfortable centering myself in a space that only affects me emotionally while so many have lost their lives or their families or their homes.

So instead, I scroll and I imbibe and I feel and feel and feel all day long.

My therapist will remind me that it’s not especially useful to feel the world’s aches and pains with no outlet. My suffering benefits no one. Much to the exhaustion of friends that care about me, I’m borderline intransigent about giving myself a break. But as a people pleaser, it’s both surprising and a little refreshing to find a little conviction for a change.

It feels better to feel than to bury one’s head in the sand.

So perhaps I don’t bear the witness. Perhaps I AM the witness. Mustn’t there also be a receiver? One that doesn’t merely say ‘huh’ at the world before heading to Crumbl for some comfort food?

Maybe this isn’t the moment for comfort. Maybe comfort should feel hollow sometimes. Maybe it’s ok, when hugging your own child, to feel for the mothers who can’t anymore.

Maybe we’re not doing better than our historical predecessors because there weren’t enough people willing to sit, truly sit, with what they were witnessing.

We need not be passive witnesses. We can ‘adopt’ a family from Venezuela that’s arrived in our neighborhood to try to make a big enough splash in our mutual small existences to make up for the non-existent splash our phone calls to my representatives seem to be making in Gaza. We can be donators and defectors and form conscientious opinions and cast conscientious votes. Or maybe, all we have to offer is just allowing ourselves to dispense of the polite fiction that “All’s well in Zion.”

Maybe we can just decide to know instead of choosing not to.

Right now the world is bearing witness to its pain. For those that have the privilege to look away, at the very least, we can encourage ourselves to be the witness. One day, to our children and our prodigy, we will be called upon to testify.

  1. Dec 12, 2023

    I have been having similar thoughts while rocking my little ones. Bedtimes have taken longer because I feel so grateful and guilty that all my children need for comfort right now is a snuggle. I feel for all the mamas. My heart is heavy. Thank you for highlighting the value in seeing others, in not looking away, and in helping where we can.