The other day I was on a video conference with some people I didn’t know, and the host thought it would be fun if we all introduced ourselves by divulging something that makes us cry. One man said that donkeys make him cry because they look like orphans. Other people mentioned crying when they have to wake up too early the morning and when they see TV ads wherein fathers do stuff for their daughters that moms usually do, like braid their hair.
I punted on the crying question.
I’m working on crying. Although I’ve heard (and, furthermore, I believe) crying is healthy and nourishing, I dislike the feeling of it almost as much as I hate vomiting and fainting, and I’ll do just about anything to keep from doing it in front of other people. However, this one time cried I pretty publicly and raucously in the Atlanta airport watching CNN at the departure gate. It was a segment about Syrian refugees washing up on the shore of Greece in their homemade rafts, welcomed by volunteers offering blankets and fresh water and warm food and diapers and safe places to stay. The story was probably only 3 minutes long, but a few seconds in I felt this rush of dread and certainty: I’m going to cry in public; I’m desperate not to; here we go.
So, these Syrian refugees land on the Greek island of Lesbos, trudge out of the surf carrying their bundles and petrified-looking children to their bosoms after spending many days drifting around in the Aegean Sea — it could have been weeks, who knows. When they reach the shore, some of them hug or sob into the sharp-looking gray beach stones, but this one young guy just stands at the edge of the water, impassive as volunteers drape blankets over his shoulders, try to make his hand grip a plastic water bottle, attempt to hustle him gently up the beach to the medic station. He just stands there with the small waves smacking his calves, inert and staring blindly inland.
This man was only on camera for about 4 seconds, but he’s who sent me up a tree in the Atlanta airport. I cried because I know that feeling — you probably know it, too. There’s a part of me that’s feeling it right now, in fact.
Who knows what that man had to endure before he got to the beach, but it was certainly much worse than what I and possibly you have gone through the past four years, the past 8 months, the past week. However, it was taking him a minute to realize that whatever it was that happened before was no longer happening.
It’s hard to celebrate things sometimes — it’s hard to convince your body it doesn’t have to run or fight or play dead anymore, or even sit coiled like a spring, waiting and smiling and rusting inside. You can take away the stressor and still feel the stress.
So, I wish you peace if you’re standing on the beach, looking into the middle distance after a long voyage and the rush of a thousand atrocities of all sizes and descriptions playing in front of your eyes. I also wish you tears about something small.
Here’s to crying over donkeys. I hope we can do it very soon.