Behind the Headlines


“Three fast-food workers were found shot to death Wednesday . . .”

“An explosion caused by a leaking propane tank leveled a house, killing a woman . . .”

“A young actor was found dead in a hotel . . .”

“A former long-haul trucker was executed by injection Wednesday for raping and stabbing three women . . .”

“One body was discovered Wednesday in the wreckage of a pair of collapsed buildings . . .”

How many deaths was that—four, five, no seven?  I scanned the news in the local paper as I sipped my hot coffee and nibbled the remaining crust of my whole grain toast.  How could I just sit there eating—so uninvolved, so unaffected by the suffering of so many?  Did the weight of all that pain only justify a few lines of ink and newsprint, read today, tossed tomorrow?  I had become callused, hardened, I suppose, by the constant barrage of reported crime, death, accident, and war.  I’d become somewhat immune to the suffering of sons and daughters, fathers and mothers.  People just like me.

I wondered if someone had picked up the Atlanta paper in May of 1979, and over coffee, skimmed the tiny headline about a young man in a motorcycle accident who spilled half his bright red blood on Bankhead Highway.

My eighteen-month-old son was in his highchair, screaming and pasting spaghetti to his hair.  The phone rang.  A woman identified herself as a nurse from Cobb County General Hospital:  “Your husband has been involved in a motorcycle accident.  He may have a broken leg.”  I proceeded to ask perfunctory questions, and she proceeded to give directions and very little specifics.

I knew in my heart it was bad.  My mind flashed an image of Kelly flying through the air.  My son still screamed.  I felt numb.  Immediately, I arranged for a baby sitter and a ride to the hospital.  I didn’t dare drive.  I moved in and out of a haze of tears and desperate “please Gods.”

Word spread, and friends gathered, keeping the long vigil with me on hard plastic waiting room chairs.  Tears, phone calls, prayers, blurred conversations, heaviness on my chest.  We waited and waited and waited.

I saw him for a brief moment as they wheeled him down the hall to recovery in ICU.  He was barely lucid, sunken, gray, and vacant, but he was alive.  And he still had his leg—what was left of it.

This was the beginning, the beginning of numerous reconstructive surgeries, infection, physical and spiritual pain, depression, physical and spiritual therapy.  For others, the crisis was over.  They moved on to the next headline.  But for us, the crisis ebbed and flowed for months and years and still affects our lives today.  The newspaper headline became an archive while the pain wore on.

Are we like the ancient Romans and their gladiators; do we get some kind of vicarious pleasure out of the suffering of others?  Or is it just that we hold headlines at an emotional distance, cluck our tongues, and inwardly thank God that this tragedy didn’t touch our home?

“Five perish on deadly day in Valley.”

“Twelve special-needs adults suffered minor injuries when the bus they were riding in collided with a vehicle . . .”

“A man was killed Thursday morning when he allegedly ran a red light . . .”

I can’t help in every situation.  I may not be in a position to touch directly the lives I read about, but I need to care.  I need to deeply care that someone in my community this night comes home to an empty house—comes home to a future alone after great loss.  Someone faces months of protracted pain and recovery and so many “whys.”  There is someone weighted with guilt over choices made and consequences earned, someone who wishes they could relive the moments.

I need to care.   I need to pray for the peace of God to intervene and invade these broken lives, these broken hearts.  I can pray in a knowing way, as I remember what it feels like to live behind the headlines.

About apronheadlilly

wife and mother, musician, composer / poet, teacher, and observer of the world, flawed Christ-follower
This entry was posted in Christian, Faith, Family, memories, philosophy, Photography, Thoughts, Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

43 Responses to Behind the Headlines

  1. susansplace says:

    Thank you, Lilly. What a well-written telling of a desperate time. Your tags, caring, community, faith and family, say it all!

    • And I know you are living some behind the headlines, too. Bless you today!

      • susansplace says:

        Well, I’ll be… when absolutely no one responded to my “heavy” post (Reflection in the Looking Glass), I came two inches from folding up my blog and keeping my personal “behind the headlines” to my big fat self. Your post today has encouraged me so much!

        • Sometimes we have no idea who is reading and being influenced. Someone came up to me on Sat. and said they loved my poetry and photography. It is a local person who has never ever responded on FB or my blog. So go for it. You just never know. 🙂

        • Don’t give up! Someone stopped me yesterday, she had read my post called “Pure Faith” and had been sharing it with someone who was struggling deeply. I never knew she read it. She never commented, or “liked” and now I know it helped someone who didn’t find it on the internet at all, someone who was given a printed out copy, and so we never know where our journey crosses the path of someone else!! 🙂

        • You just never know how God can use a seed sown. A guy shared with me that one time he was driving in his car confused and mulling over a decision he had to make. When one of my songs came on the radio, it gave him what he needed. To me that is so awesome. It encouraged him but just as much me to think that what we sow can reap fruit in His hand.

        • susansplace says:

          Thank you, Tiffany. You’ve made my day. Thanks for taking the time to write.

  2. Beautiful post! I often have thought about that idea of “shouldn’t we care more”… Loved reading this! I know exactly what you mean…

    • Thanks for your comments. I think some feel overwhelmed because we hear about so very much. But the ones and twos where we can make a difference is what we can focus on. But even those others, we can lift up a prayer. As that ambulance blazes by, we can offer a prayer for those in trouble because many of us know what those lifechanging events can mean.

  3. Lori says:

    So very true! The greatest gift we can give does not cost a thing, yet it is priceless… prayer. 🙂

    • It is interesting that sometimes we feel helpless and think I can at least pray (as if that was next best), when really, prayer is the most important thing we can do. Lord, help, is my favorite all time prayer!

  4. pattisj says:

    So true, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Wonderful post and thanks so much for the reminder. I’m sorry for the tragedy you and your family have experienced.

  6. Christine says:

    Thanks for the great post. Yes, we can care, but not carry, if you know what I mean. I got worked up reading about the plight of women in Afghanistan–awful! Through prayer we have to leave all these others in God’s hands or it would bring us so low.

    I’ve seen the other side of the headlines, too, in a different way. I didn’t see the headline, but it would have read “Car driven by impaired driver fails to stop at sign, smashes into another car. Its lone occupant was killed instantly.” Police were unable to determine who was driving the vehicle at fault; all three occupants were out of the vehicle by the time police arrived and claim they were too drunk to remember who was driving.

    My (relative) was one of them. Her boyfriend who owned the car took the rap, but it was a lesser charge; had the police been able to determine who was driving, he/she would have been in for something like manslaughter. The car they hit was driven by fine upstanding young man on his way to the Bus Depot to pick up his aunt & uncle.

    She’s talked to me just a bit about that accident, admitted years later that almost every day she sees that scene again in her mind. (So she wasn’t too drunk to remember.) She carries that secret about who was driving, says no one will ever know. So it binds her like a heavy chain. She says she’d like to go to the parents and tell them how sorry she is about it. The bad guys don’t just walk away scot-free, either; they have to live with the results all their lives. And God dispenses His own justice — I’ve seen it different times.

  7. Madhu says:

    Haven’t we all lived behind the headlines at some point? I need to care too. But I know that each one carries his own cross, alone. The rest are bystanders at best.

    • True, but I think our age has lost much of the sense of community that fosters caring. Growing up, one person’s trauma was everyone’s care, and the community rallied round the wounded. In the big city and here in CA, there seems more isolation unless you are part of a caring group, like a church–and even there, sometimes they’re so big, you become just another item on a prayer list. It is hard, but a challenge to care for others as we need to be cared for. Thanks for your insights.

  8. Susan Gaddis says:

    Caring seems to be a side job for so many. You’ve put it back on the dining room table. Thanks for the call to action–we need it.

  9. The challenge to care for others, what an idea! I love this composition of yours, it touches so many aspects of modern living and our concept of humanity… 🙂

  10. Astrid Desmonda says:

    This is really inspiring, thank you so much for sharing! Love all the way from Indonesia.

  11. nutsfortreasure says:

    I too as many others are sick of all the BAD News stories. I wrote on the wall of a local paper here in NH if they needed any help to find NICE stories to share with readers that is before they lost us all. Loved your post.

  12. This is so thought provoking. We hear so much bad news and we often become immune to it. We need to keep caring.

  13. What a great post and thanks for sharing your story !

  14. Lissa Rabon says:

    Really powerful…thank you.

  15. Reblogged this on A p r o n h e a d — Lilly and commented:

    *************A reminder to us–to me–that the healines of Typhoon Haiyan are not just lines to be aghast at, to cluck our tongues and move on; it is a reminder to in some way come alongside, knowing that the pain of these lives tossed about like toys on the waves and winds, some now dead, some left to live this horror, are folks just like us. Lord, help! So much pain!

  16. You raise the interesting question of why bad news sells newspapers. I don’t know the answer, except that tragedies arouse more feelings of wanting to help than good news does.

  17. ly says:

    I’m going to think differently about the things on the news and remember that there is a family hurting. Thanks for reminding us to pray for strangers.

  18. Angeline M says:

    It’s so easy to become distanced, each of us living in our little boxes, getting through the day to day. And it is so easy to think that the issue is so big we can do nothing about it anyway. But we should remember Mother Teresa’s quote “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”
    I hope that you have been shown a mountain of love as you’ve gone through all that you’ve gone through.

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