I was having a moment. You know the ones: where everything has just built up and then one tiny little event that is kind of important but hardly significant in the grand scheme of anything, tips you over the edge and you end up a sobbing incoherent mess? One of those moments.
So I was sad for reasons that don’t bear repeating here, and seeing as Boatman was home, and the kids were occupied, and no one needed to be fed for are least 20 minutes, I thought I would take the moment to have a good cry. I hid in my bedroom, because the kids never look for me there, and I indulged in a good little while of feeling very sorry for myself until I was inevitably interrupted. Little BJ came in to ask if he could play the iPad, because it had been a week of no devices and there is only so much Minecraft a seven-year-old boy can do without.
He stopped and looked at me.
‘What’s wrong?’ he asked, and I hesitated. It was nothing really, even though it was something. But not enough to justify copious tears and snot to a small boy who wouldn’t have understood properly anyway.
‘Oh, it doesn’t matter,’ I told him, feeling guilty for the lie, and he nodded and left the room, iPad free.
He returned a few minutes later; a piece of paper held up in his hands, undecipherable words written in lead pencil. I called him closer, my tear-filled eyes unable to read without my glasses, and what I read made me cry even more.
Two words that said everything anyone needed to say about my not worth mentioning moment.
And then, because he had said everything, he picked up the iPad, and sat down next to me; not saying a word, just being there, because somehow, he knew that was enough.
The next day, I took Bridie out to the shops. We were talking about something and my ‘moment’ came up, and because half a day had passed and it wasn’t the big terrible thing it had been, I told her. ‘Oh that doesn’t matter Mum,’ she said. ‘It doesn’t change anything.’
I mentally thought I might have to teach her that compassion means actually caring about what is important to others, but she hadn’t finished. ‘But I’m sad it made you sad,’ and again, the words were perfect.
That night Boatman and I were in the kitchen, and a song came on Spotify. I made a comment about always hearing the words in Portuguese, and he looked at me weird (fair enough, because not many English-speaking Australians hear random songs in Portuguese), and I told him how when I was in East Timor on a mission trip, the Brazilians we stayed with sang in Portuguese. Then something came up about visiting a school and me not understanding a single word that was said, and how I had to help sing a song with animal sounds which all sound so different in another language. And then I remembered that I saw something at that school, and maybe it was because of the distinct lack of English that it stood out, but I noticed a misspelt sentence written on a classroom door.
‘I hope mister understud my home is brokin.’
I wondered that day, as I have wondered often since, what the child who wrote that meant. In a newly independent East Timor, a broken home may have been a very literal thing. To my western mind, I wondered if it was about his or her family.
Maybe — hopefully not — both.
I also wondered what that child did, to feel the need to write those words in justification. Why he or she took to the door with a texta and misspelt English (in a country where that wasn’t the primary language), to somehow make ‘mister’ understand.
And in light of my 24 hours, and my over reactionary moment, I wondered…
What if Mister had seen that child in their moment, and written his own message instead? What if he had said, ‘I caer’ and showed that he did? How might things have played out then?
Or what if Mister had said very gently, that while he didn’t understand or condone the behaviour, he was very sad that the child was sad, and made them feel that he actually meant it?
And what if, instead of crying over something that means almost nothing, I thought more about actual problems and tried to make things right for people? Just sit with them and love them, and make their world a little less broken than it is?
Told people ‘I care,’ more often.
Felt sad because they were sad.
And every day loved my little people more perfectly, so that they keep caring, and keep loving and keep making our home –and maybe one day our world — a place that is anything but broken.