Crisscrossing strands of white lights dangled from the 200-year-old rafters of my friend Jenny’s barn. In one corner, pinecone angel ornaments hung from a fresh-cut tree. A picnic table at the end of the room held paper cups of markers and scissors, ready for the children and parents who squashed up the rain-soaked hillside last weekend to celebrate the launch of my first children’s picture book, The Christmas Cradle. After nearly two decades of spending much of my free time alone, clacking computer keys in the fragile hope that what I wrote would someday be published, last week’s party was a true delight.
There’s an election next week. But I find it hard to concentrate on who’s running for what with the tragedy in Pittsburgh where eleven people were gunned down in an anti-Semitic attack on a synagogue. With masses of desperate people crowding our southern border, hoping for a better life. With the New York Times’s photos of starving Yemeni children. There’s trouble in this world of ours, where hate seeks its own way again and again and again.
I turned the page in the biography I was reading to my children about the life of Amy Carmichael, an Irish missionary to India in the early 1900s, when I came across a scene that typified what angers so many about the history of Christian missions: a procession of Indian servants carrying a group of British ministers and their wives on sedan chairs. For each missionary (other than Carmichael, who rode horseback), it took eight men to carry each chair.
Like many, I was shocked last week when a painting “Girl With Balloon” by the British street artist Banksy sold for a record $1.4 million at Sotheby’s auction house only to instantly self-destruct. Like many, I’d never heard of the enigmatic artist before his stunt flashed across the world’s news feeds, showing a painting of a girl with a heart shaped balloon slipping through the bottom of its frame and being destroyed by a shredder as a wealthy, art-loving audience looked on.
I laughed. Then I contemplated what it means to live in a world that often values paint and paper more than people, the temporal more than the timeless.
Every Father’s Day my mother bought herself the same present: a tool. Might be a new hammer or a shovel or a set of wrenches. With my father living in another state, a farm to run and two children to raise, she filled the role of both father and mother and accordingly treated herself to a gift on the big day.