“Let’s watch the news,” my first grader said. “It’s important to know what’s going on all around the world,” he added.
We lasted less than five minutes.
The first three stories included a piece on a missing construction worker, trapped inside a collapsed building. The video included a breathtaking scene of a plume of dust and falling debris, accompanied by “Oh, my God! Oh, my God!” on repeat from the person taking the video. A reel of Americans followed. They were quite literally screaming vitriol at one another over a clashing of impeachment beliefs. The hatred in their voices and faces was palpable. And finally, graphic imagery of brutal violence in Kurdish areas of Turkey. Bloodied bodies being dragged. The journalist spoke of “mass executions by bullets to the head.”
The remote shook in my hand as a struggled to push the power button and make it stop.
“Why did you turn it off, Mommy?” my wide-eyed kiddo asked, between bites of morning toast.
“While the news is important, buddy, sometimes it’s not appropriate for kids.”
My words gave me pause. I realized, is it ever appropriate for children anymore?
I distinctly remember watching the news with my parents. The radio played at regular intervals when we were in the car, and the evening news was a staple while one of my parents prepared dinner. I remember the sound of Paul Harvey’s voice in my memory like I heard him only hours ago instead of decades. Tom Brokaw and Diane Sawyer were faces I recognized as a child—would still recognize.
My kids, ages fourteen, twelve, and seven, recognize no one from mainstream news media. Not because my husband and I don’t follow current events—local, national, and international. But because the soundtrack of today is dominated by violence, hate, and division—the opposite of what we wish to dominate our children’s lives.
Maybe the news was the same in my childhood and I just didn’t pay attention? Maybe it was diluted both in how and what was reported, due in part to the fact it was delivered in an era void of smartphones, the internet, and satellite imaging? Certainly, there was violence. Certainly, there was political division and war. Certainly, there were natural disasters.
So why does it feel so heightened—so magnified and intense now?
I don’t know. I don’t have answers.
Lately, I find myself wanting to turn off the world at large. I’m ashamed to admit it. There is a part of me that yearns to be the change. I have written my representatives on numerous occasions in my adult life, volunteered for causes close to my heart, donate(d) financial support to help those in need from all variety of adversity and oppression, and I pray. Oh, goodness, I pray for this world.
It never feels like enough. I don’t want to contribute to the noise of it all. And I’m tired.
Guilt and shame bubble up in my gut as I type that. What on Earth is so exhausting in my life? Security is my freaking middle name—American, white, upper-middle class, educated. And if Security is my middle name, Privilege is my first.
Yet… I am tired. The voice in my head can tell me I have nothing to be tired about, but that doesn’t make the heavy weight in my body feel lighter. When I finally pushed power on the remote and turned off the news that morning, exhaustion seeped into my body, settled into my bones, and trapped me under its weight.
I usually manage to shake it off. Distraction works wonders.
But sometimes, like when I realized we might watch the news through the entirety of breakfast and see nothing but death, destruction, war, violence, anger, and division… no amount of distraction can lighten the figurative weight of the world.
The thought occurs… if the weight is so heavy, maybe I need to ask for help in carrying it.
So, friends, this is me asking.
I don’t want to turn the world off. Ignoring the ugliness and sadness of the current state of affairs changes nothing. But it is heavy. It is too much for any of us alone. And some of us, many of us, we are tired—justified or not—we are exhausted by the mounting bad news.
We need each other. We need to remind each other there is so much good in the world too. Love exists—everywhere. Kindness can be found in the most unlikely of places. We can look for the helpers—BE THE HELPERS.
I don’t have big answers for our many big world problems, and I’m too tired to fight back against it all. But maybe fighting is exactly what we are meant to avoid. Maybe it feels so heavy and we are so tired because it isn’t fighting we need to do… it’s loving.
If I can’t turn on the news for the sadness and weight it brings, I can be the good news.
I can’t fight right now.
But I can love.
We all can.