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If you keep up with the news at all, this has not been the summer of love.  Not anywhere around the world.  And as Labor Day closed the season but not the heat in Ferguson, Ukraine, West Africa, Israel, Gaza, and Syria to name a few – I was feeling like a fraud.

I was laying in a shallow pool in sunny San Diego.  At Legoland to be exact.  A place where childhood dreams are made out of plastic.  Late August through early September is birthday season for my family.  Four out of five of us in one household have our birthdays within ten days of each other.  And considering half of those birthdays have not yet hit double digits, we celebrate them full bore over Labor Day.

Over the long weekend, as I was chasing my healthy, well-fed, totally safe and probably perpetually-charmed daughters down a long water slide into a pool of opportunity – white privilege had never seemed more palpable to me.  And not just because I, too, was laying on my back, in heated water, wearing a bikini without shame or fear with a key around my wrist to a locker that held hundreds of dollars in foot wear and even more in handheld electronics – located very near to our front row seats at the wading pool where hundreds of Americans were relaxing after our… hard labor this summer.

Yes, Americans work.  Many do actual hard labor.  And all humans feel suffering no matter where you live or what you earn.  But I do not do hard labor.  I have also never been arrested despite a few attempts. Nor have I ever spent a night in a refuge camp.  And I have only been held against my will once – in someone else’s country that I flew to freely and minimal money and maximum fast-talking fixed that within thirty-six hours.  But whatever harsh experiences I have felt in the world I have so far been able to shield them all from my children.

Which is the universal goal of parenting. To give more and do better than was given and done to you.  And although my kids experience is far safer than those hurting and at risk right now in Ferguson, Ukraine, West Africa, Israel, Gaza and Syria to name a few, I am not sure what to do or say or teach my young children about the gap.  I’m not even sure how to address it to myself, without sounding Gwyneth Paltrowesque.

So much so that when I reached the wading pool after the minor twists and turns I paid to experience in San Diego, I had to look away from my little ones.  As I saw my babies running towards the next slide and their next form of joy – which is just what I wanted for them – I could not get the image of children running in Syria, in particular, out of my head.  Someone else’s babies who have been living for so many years now under siege.  Children that we as Americans did not help when they begged us to even though we did and do help so many others – leaving them to run from their own leader and those that he let flourish.  The image of young kids who cannot go home, never mind to school – and their parents, who had all the same dreams as I did when they had their babies, made me close my eyes and stop still, knee deep in my holiday.

How do I continue to proffer joy when it is not the normal state of life, not even in childhood in so many instances?

When I reached my lounge chair and sunk low into doubt, I quietly asked myself another question.  Are the children of Syria easier to think about than those in Ferguson and all of east St. Louis or Detroit, as well as parts of Chicago and Arkansas and New York? Or anywhere in America who may have been under siege for much longer than three years by the people meant to keep them safe?  Not on a daily basis, but arbitrarily which may be just as devastating when it surprises you on the street you grew up on.

And when do I begin to discuss that with my own young Americans?

In the sweet September sun I could have roasted in that plastic chair, in that plastic place.  Yet sitting in it gave me time to eventually be thankful that my children are healthy and safe. That neither I nor they are food insecure and we have shelter.  Even that I live in southern California – where during the most serious drought of this century, every lawn I see is envy green.

Which reminded me that joy also creates gratefulness.  Humility, in fact.  Or it should and can if I proffer those feelings right alongside of joy.

Which will not stop me from waking up at night crying for the mother’s of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaer, Eyal YifrahMohammed Abu Khdeir, Mike Brown, James Foley, Steven Sotloff and the beautiful yet nameless sons and daughters I see in the news everyday.  Because I know it is no longer my life I fear for but those I have yet to explain the situation in Ferguson, Ukraine, West Africa, Israel, Gaza, and Syria to.

Who I can see from my lounge chair are almost to the crest of the next slide.



  1. Nicole Baugh on Friday 19, 2014

    This summer hasn’t been so lovey dovey. Each day you hear something shocking. NFL needs to clean up its act.

  2. kate on Friday 19, 2014

    please don’t let the depth of those feelings remain just feelings. please do something. you have money, fame, beauty, influence. please do something with them. do something grand and wild and unheard of. do you remember that feeling when you were suffering, at the end, and someone reached out a hand to you? what a miracle it was? that hand that appeared in the middle of hopelessness and pulled you into a better place? how clean and free and alive you felt? miraculous. they felt it too. and you can do that. you can reach out your hands and pull folks in dark places of hopelessness up and out. you absolutely can. don’t just feel. let the feelings be fuel. do something.

  3. Diane Farr on Friday 19, 2014

    hmmm. i think your comment is more provoking than even my column.
    thank you Kate I will try… df

  4. Dan Mackey on Friday 19, 2014

    As usual I look forward to your columns and make some reply. I have probably read this a dozen or so times and done a lot of reflecting on your topic. Many of the events of this last summer have made me either embarrassed or apologetic about: Being White, Being Male, Being American, Holding what I think are Christian beliefs at a sensible level and even just being human. I asked my wife Jill if we could move to Mars. That’s where I am right now aside from feeling powerless to affect significant change to make any of it better. Not sure the kiddos are old enough for deep explanations of the darker sides of human nature and their effects on people’s lives in small and large ways. Just let them know how blessed and lucky they are and teach them to love and not hate and that everyone regardless of their station in life has value.

  5. Diane Farr on Friday 19, 2014

    thank you Dan for your comment. A rover reached Mars last night – to figure out how it went from a viable planet for life to one without water or carbon dioxide… on the same day people protested around the world over climate change. TBD-df

  6. walter on Friday 19, 2014

    wow. I’m sort of speechless

  7. Laurie b on Friday 19, 2014

    How come when I go to Legoland I think about long lines, sunblock and did I bring the right shoes. Girl, your brain is big.

  8. Lori on Friday 19, 2014

    wow is right. you are a thoughtful parent and are inspiring to me. However I hope you will stop watering your lawn and think about climate change for your kids also!

  9. a is for Gwenny's kid on Friday 19, 2014

    Oh Gwenyth always gets a hard time. I love her blog

  10. chong on Friday 19, 2014

    I think your blog is better Diane. And i love you green lawn or not

  11. Mary on Friday 19, 2014

    This is a wonderful peace Diane. Thoughful and heartbreaking all at once. Your children are lucky to have you. Thank you for inspiring great questions for me, too.

  12. jkc on Friday 19, 2014

    I’m so glad to see a story including Mike Brown that is not actually exploiting Mike Brown. Thoughtful post

  13. siany on Friday 19, 2014

    Hello lady,
    this is both heartbreaking and true and valuable all at once. Keep up the writing although I do love seeing your face on the tele. SD

  14. Bill Rice on Friday 19, 2014

    I was mad when I first read your article. So mad Diane that I thought better than to respond.

    Now with some time gone by I think what you say has value. You make it hard to stay angry because you call yourself out for all the things that made me angry. I will continue to think about your words and also pray for all the young men in your stories who lost their lives for no reason. I hope each of their God’s brings their families peace.

    Bill

  15. yb on Friday 19, 2014

    always moved by your words Diane. This was no exception

  16. yb on Friday 19, 2014

    I’d also like to thank the commenter who waited when he was angry before commenting. I wish more people would especially in a small community of voices.

  17. max w. ell on Friday 19, 2014

    All this makes me sure I am not ready to have kids.

  18. Diane Farr on Friday 19, 2014

    I also spent time on long lines, sunblock and the right shoes. And some self-directed anger about needing to buy a $30 hat in the hated gift shop – df

  19. Diane Farr on Friday 19, 2014

    ah friends, this is the second set of comments on the lawn. Twitter too!
    MY LAWN IS NOT GREEN. it is brown. but sadly, it is the only one on my street to be that color. thanks for all the comments. df

  20. Diane Farr on Friday 19, 2014

    thank you Bill for waiting to comment!!!! and thank you for your thoughts df