Ever since the birth of my baby boy I see his face in all the children who find themselves in harm’s way. I see his face on the refugee children who flee the violence in Syria either with their parents and family members or completely unaccompanied. I see him in the children who are abused by monstrous adults who find it in them to scar little children inside and out forever. I see his face on the dead bodies of little babies less lucky than him paraded on our social media feeds by organizations looking for donations.
I also see myself on the faces of their parents. I feel the desperation of the father who does not have the money to smuggle his whole family out of war-torn countries and who instead hands over his baby to a distant family member about to board a shabby boat knowing full-well that it may be the last time the two of them are alive next to each other. I see him scratching his head, balancing the risks of a possible deadly sea journey with the likely death of staying behind.
I see my wife on the face of women in sub Saharan Africa whose undernourishment stops the production of breast milk, rendering them unable to feed their babies and who inevitably decide to further cut on meals in order to afford formula milk for their newborn. I feel the desperation of having to balance their life and death with that of their baby. These are decisions that no human should ever have to make.
My work has to do with people who have survived the worst that humanity has to offer. People whose resilience enables them to pull through the hardships and lead lives worth living. Over the years I managed to put some distance between my feelings and the daily stories of profound sadness I witness. But since Johnny came about I am back to square one, like when I first joined the organization. Back then I took all the devastating stories personally, constantly feeling the weight of the world on my shoulders, feeling that I personally led these people down. This sense of duty and accountability is necessary for everyone who wants to work in the humanitarian sector but obviously not sustainable for the long-run.
I see him and realize how lucky I am for being able to provide for him. He is such a lucky boy to be born in a safe country in a family that loves him to pieces. I am terrified of the prospect of anything bad happening to him or — and this is a new feeling — anything bad happening to Sunshine and I which may render us unable to provide for him. I recall people telling us that there will no longer be worry-free days once we became parents. I couldn’t understand what they were on about. Now I do.
This is part of a series of entries titled Fatherhood Diaries where I record thoughts on life as a new dad. Click here for all the Fatherhood Diaries.