Everyone is worried about swine flu—as well we should be. If things escalate to pandemic level (which they may), we will all be in big trouble (although washing hands with soap and water is still the best defense). As you can read today on Rodale.com, some think the Mexico outbreak is a result of factory pig farming—by American companies who moved their factories to Mexico for cheaper labor, looser regulations, and therefore cheaper meat for Americans (there sure are a lot of major problems listed in this sentence). In our busy lives, we run to the supermarket and buy some cheap meat, or go out to dinner and eat ribs, chops, or pulled pork sandwiches, and don’t think about what it takes to bring that meat to our table. After all, the kids are hungry and we’ve got to eat something quick, so we can get home in time to watch our favorite shows (I am as guilty of that as anyone). We know we should pay closer attention to where our food comes from. But it’s easy to forget to do the right thing, even when we want to do it.
The flu situation all feels very real to me since this week Lucia (my 2-and-¾-year old) has a stomach bug which has literally knocked her down (that’s hard to do!). She got it from the babysitter, who got it from her husband, and I am fully expecting the rest of us to get it over the next few weeks. Yuk.
At the first sign of vomit, I revert back to tried and true coping methods: a bucket and some towels, ginger ale, saltines, frozen pedia pops and, of course, Jell-O. The saltines are organic, but that’s about it. After a certain point, all I can do as a Mom is snuggle, hover, and watch her while she sleeps—she breathes not peacefully, as in a healthy sleep, but tentatively, as if merely breathing is painful. And when she looks at me with glassy, distant eyes, my heart breaks.
While she sleeps, I can’t help but think about how precious life is (even her sister said Lucia’s cute when she’s asleep!). I also can’t help but think about how many children around the world are dying at this very moment—of hunger, and violence, and disease. The latest report from the World Health Organization says that every year 1.7 million kids under age 5 die of respiratory diseases, 1.6 million die from diarrhea, 936,000 from infections and parasitic diseases, 728,000 from malaria, and 208,000 from AIDS. Before they even have a chance to live, 3.8 million babies die from various causes like low birth weight and birth trauma. Why aren’t we more worried about that? Why aren’t we in a panic about the radical increase in autism in this country (one in every 150 children born has it)? Measles, for which there is a very safe and reliable vaccine, kills over 400,000 kids under age 5 every year.
I am a firm believer that mothers feel the same pain, and the same love, all around the world. And a child’s desire to be loved and to be healthy is the same all around the world. Too often we focus on the minor, insignificant stuff and miss the bigger, more important picture. We—me included—spend a lot of time thinking about who’s going to get kicked off of American Idol, and not a lot of time thinking about where these diseases come from, and how we might help prevent and treat them.
It’s easy to forget to do the right thing. But nature has a way of not letting us forget. I hope we all wake up before it’s too late.