Just the chance that maybe we’ll find better days.
- Goo Good Dolls, Better Days
For the victims of the lorry attack on the Breitscheidplatz Christmas market in Berlin this week. I wish I could offer consolation, healing. I can only offer this perhaps too timely post, and all my empathy.
The windows display toy soldiers and nutcrackers, shortbread cookies cut into stockings and stars. The lights are on, the trees are sparkling on the Grand Boulevards. Soft snow and soft music descend onto cars, wanderers, and holiday shoppers, interlacing with the smell of mulled wine and chestnuts roasting on the corner cart.
Calling all shoppers, angels, lovers, all of you around me in the street: Will you go into the chocolate and book shops, craft and clothing stores with me? I have spent the year drawing up a shopping list that has gotten a little out of hand. I know just what to get everyone, but I will need some help.
For the children in refugee camps at the borders of the EU, I want to get sweaters and blankets, raincoats and gloves, and reindeer and snowman themed socks. They also need a future, but first let us get them warm. December nights are cold I hear, even in Lesbos.
For the little ones working on cocoa farms in Ghana and the Ivory Coast, I want to get chocolate eggs, chocolate bars, hot cocoa foaming at the top, and buckets of M&Ms in every color of the rainbow. They have a right to know, to enjoy what comes out of their fourteen-hour workdays. They need a break from poverty and slavery too, but first they need a break.
For the girls in Afghanistan I want an education; permission from their fathers and husbands to go to school. They need to be able to read and write poetry, and marry whomever they please, but first they need roads, safe and affordable transportation, so they can reach the classrooms. Oh! And I want to get driving permits for the ladies in Saudi Arabia too.
For the soon to be mothers in South America, I want to get mosquito nets. And bug repellant and clean running water, and the scientists to develop a vaccine. While we are there I also want to plant trees to replace the forests they have lost. Pineapple, banana, coconut, and mango. Then move on to Sub-Saharan Africa and plant olive, lemon, orange, apple, and fig trees there too.
For the great governments of our world’s great nations, I want to get a mindset change; a pair of binoculars to help them see, from their greatness, the people they were hired to serve.
For every army in the world, I want to get an orchestra. For every gun or missile a violin or a harp, for every combat uniform a bow tie. The crowning third movement of a symphony to drown every politician’s speech. Then for every explosion a minute of silence, to listen to the dust fall.
For every prisoner in solitary confinement, I want a puppy for company. For every lonely person’s kitchen table, fresh flowers and out of season strawberries. For every family dispersed around the world, free airplane tickets on Christmas Eve. And for every person working too hard or too far, I want time for a phone call home.
For old friends who have lost touch, I want to get postage stamps, and crisp letter paper, postcards, photographs, ribbons, and pressed flowers to send. I want to find a way to send the warmth and smell of a hug in an envelope, and perhaps one to send those wordless feelings across oceans in a parcel too.
For my father, who worries, for all fathers who worry, I want an uninterrupted night’s sleep. For my mother, a Sunday morning without an alarm clock, then a leisurely walk and the sound of fallen leaves crackling under both our feet.
For the most beautiful girl I know, I want to give my red glasses, so that she can see herself the way I do; see the boys hold their breaths when she walks in a room, see how far and high she has come.
For the boy who became a man when I was not looking, I just want to be there. For the adolescence, driving test, birthday parties, graduation I missed. I want to help him shop for a navy blue suit and pick out a corsage, then wait up till four am on his prom night to ask him how it went.
For mon chéri and for myself, I want a party. Our little apartment overflowing with music and the loud laughs of my parents, his parents, my and his siblings and friends. I want to make up time, I want more time with the people I love and miss. I want the furniture pushed back against the walls to make more space for us to dance.
So calling all shoppers, angels, lovers, all of you around me in the street. I need all the help I can get to make it through this shopping list. Let us start with these items then move on to the rest if we have enough time, and whenever it gets dark we will stop and then I want to get hot tea and cocoa for everyone.