“Light a candle, light the dark,
Light the world, light a heart or two
Light a candle for me,
I’ll light a candle for you.”1
Stark images stream across my mental screen: children—of various ages, heights, genders, all with similar expressions of grief, despair, and loss—packed in holding cells. Some obviously sick and crying for their parents; some silent; others with vacant looks on their faces. I stare at the pictures—unable to look away; wishing I could turn my head.
Shame and consternation envelop me. How can this be? I weep. Surely this is not actually happening! This must be a mistake; these must be pictures from somewhere else, not from where I am. How awful!
News reports continue, so it must be true; and my heart breaks. I feel the pain of these children, while simultaneously imagining the horror and despair of parents who have had their little ones taken, in some instances wrenched, from their arms. A vision synonymous with historical reports and pictures of slavery is conjured up in the mind. Somehow, we’ve been transported back to those dark times, as if in some nightmarish time warp.
What can we do? How can we help?
Then, when you thought it couldn’t get worse, reports of various deaths come in. Maybe I should never have become a grandma! We grandmas are notoriously sappy creatures. But if I had never become a grandma, then maybe my heart wouldn’t feel so shredded by these scenes of maltreated innocents. Was it simple neglect? Was it the frustration of not enough staff, not enough budget? Is there someone to blame?
Cruelty to animals can bring heavy fines and news headlines. Is there no law against cruelty to children? Why did some of them die? Something’s not right. Is somebody going to fix it for the children? Do they matter the way regular kids in regular backyards do? How important are they: more, less, the same as regular kids?
We may not all have given birth to children of our own. We may not all have contributed to the procreation of the species. We don’t all have to be grandmas and grandpas. But we are all someone’s child—just like those kids.
Can we be both lawful and care for the kids? care about the children? Can we show support for them, for those who care for them, for folks in charge and for rules and order by donating money, clothes, or comfort kits to community service centers and churches that have contact with the kids? Can we shine some light into the children’s eyes, hearts, and lives?
The holidays are coming, you know. How can we enjoy them—eating well, sleeping comfortably, celebrating family reunions—without thinking about and caring for kids who have fallen on hard times?
And about that light: perhaps we could each kindle a candle in our homes and hearts, for the children. As the song says,
“Light a candle . . . for the children who need more than presents can bring. . . .
Light a candle for the homeless and the hungry. . . . Light a candle for the broken and forgotten.2”
Marvene Thorpe-Baptiste, a mother and grandmother, is editorial assessment coordinator for Adventist Review Ministries.