But this story, carried on CNN today, changed my focus entirely:
Five-year-old Marjan sniffles from the cold as she struggles under her load. Hoisted on her back is a bag almost as big as she is.As a father, whose youngest daughter is rapidly approaching two, this story tears me up. Every night I lay my toddler down in her bed, and I tear up at how fortunate I am, and how fortunate she is. I used to do the same with my teenagers, though I don't tuck them in any more. Yet to see this little girl on the brink of hypothermia, and to see her even younger sister (who is probably my toddler's age) loading trash into the fire pit so she can stay warm is to see abject suffering in a way that will haunt me forever.
Instead of going to school, Marjan scavenges for hours with her 10-year-old aunt collecting trash. It is a heavy burden for such a small child but a necessary one. The trash she collects is what her family uses as fuel for cooking and, more importantly, to fend off Kabul's bitter winter.
It is a matter of life and death for someone so young. Last winter, Marjan's baby brother died from the cold.
And it leads to so many questions:
- Once they got the images, did the CNN crew do anything to help this little girl and this family? The story doesn't say whether they did, but I would find it hard to believe that they would just walk away. Did they leave her their coats? Did they bring better blankets or a more insulated roof? Could they and did they go to the UN mission and get her, her sister and her mom some help?
- Now that this family has been identified around the world, will anyone step up to help? Sure, the security and economic situation in Kabul is horrendous, but why should that stop us from seeing to it that for this winter (if not all winters) Marjan has the clothes, shoes and shelter she needs? If American business tycoons can build schools for girls in remote villages, what does it really take to make sure this little girl has a warm bed to sleep in? Or even a blanket that is not made of scraps?
- And what does the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan do for this girl and her family? How is it that, as we seek to drive down a resurgent Taliban, and defeat a resilient Osama Bin Laden, that we are letting this girl, and all children like her, suffer this much? Surely if we are to gain any kind of upper hand in Afghanistan, we must make sure that its children do not sleep one night in these conditions.