I often debate whether or not I want to have children. Although they are incredibly cute and are great sources of joy, they have constant needs you must fulfill.
Last weekend as my brother, nephew, and I were driving to a restaurant to go to dinner, my nephew began to ask for milk because he was thirsty. I tried to be a patient aunt and explain to my nephew “we have to wait until we get to the restaurant” and “just 10 more minutes”, but he could not understand my reasoning. My nephew kept on repeating “milk?”, “milk?”, “milk?” Rather than stay calm, I found myself frustrated.
Though at the restaurant my brother and I were able to order the milk my nephew wanted, I could not escape the pit in my stomach that had developed during my nephew’s questioning.
I could not believe how emotional I had become in that moment. I felt a mix of emotions. I felt desperate, guilty, horrible, distressed- basically, a mix of everything anxiety ridden. These mixed emotions were not just because of my nephew (I knew he was going to get his milk and have a continuous supply of it), but the stark realization that milk is not 10 minutes away for everyone. In fact, milk, in some cases, is never there.
This experience was a real “ah-a” moment for me.
Though I have been steeped in academic study of hunger, malnutrition, diseases of poverty, environmental justice, human rights, sustainability, occupational hazards, advocacy, community health, and much, much more, I have had a hard time feeling the power of these injustices in my heart.
The statement, the longest journey a person will ever take is from their mind to their heart, is true. When these perils of the world have journey from my mind to my heart, I acquire a new desire for justice.
My new conviction from this experience I received as a gift from my nephew, all of two years old. I need to question what I am hungry for in terms of attaining justice. And I need to question that hunger, again and again, until I feel like I can meet the wants or even the needs of communities I hope to accompany.
Although the verdict is not out to whether or not I want to have children (because, honestly, it seems very scary), the verdict is in that I will spend my future career as a public health worker questioning this hunger. I welcome that, knowing that I might not get a glass of milk at the end.