This morning while I was at the church, I got a call from home: "Where's the microphone for the computer?!" A phone call had just come in through Skype on my laptop while E was playing a video game on it. It was the Boy's best friend, JG, calling from Israel. They needed the microphone so JG could hear E's part of the conversation. Wow, how times have changed!
JG spent the year in the States while his parents were visiting scholars at the University. Though JG spoke only Hebrew when he started school last September, he and E quickly formed a deep friendship. All of our hearts broke a bit when JG made his expected departure only a few days after the school year ended. Both sets of parents promised one another that we would do whatever we could to help the friendship continue to flourish, even across the miles. We all dream of the two of them re-uniting as teenagers when JG's parents are on their next sabbatical. And we hope that E might be able to go over to Israel sometime, too, to stay with their family.
More immediately, part of that promise meant downloading Skype--a most amazing, free, simple program that allows you to place phone calls over the internet for free. Even international phone calls! So a couple days ago, I loaded the program onto our laptop and emailed our contact info to JG's mom. And, lo and behold, my son had his first international phone conversation today.
We had been quite concerned about JG and his family with the conflict going on in Israel. In fact, they had been in the northern part of the country, ("Well in the range of the missiles" wrote JG's Mom the other day), until just yesterday when they finally moved back to their home in Jerusalem. We hadn't yet told the Boy about the conflict in Israel--had planned on telling him this afternoon, once we knew for sure that JG was in a safer place.
In addition to having to break this news to the Beautiful Boy, we also had to tell him today that the parents of a friend of his are getting a divorce. This is the second of two good friends whose parents are experiencing this--both of which we've found out in the past month or so. There is a third family in our church, with kids who are a little older and a little younger than the Boy, who are also splitting up.
I am astounded that this is the world my son knows, even already at age eight: One friend who faces war in his own country and three others whose families are going through major upheaval.
As a parent, I don't know how this kind of news makes the ground shift for our son. Of course, I want to protect him from knowing about any of it--but figure that's just impossible. For the sake of his closest friendships, I figure the Beautiful Boy has to know some of the pain that his friends are experiencing. I worry, especially in the case with JG, that their worlds will become too different to bridge anymore. How do two eight-year-old kids merge their worlds, when one lives in the U.S. and the other in Israel? I can only hope that the love they discovered in their hearts for one another while they were together will bridge any chasm of difference that will emerge between them while they are apart. The only thing I can guess is that in order to make that possible, we have to let E know something of what the world is like that JG faces.
Gautama Buddha's parents tried to shelter him from sickness, poverty, old age, and death. When he grew older, he left his sheltered home and discovered all of these things. And he knew, then, life is suffering. I really don't want E to live a sheltered life. There is no gift in that, really. How does one ever feel needed when one never sees a friend in need? Even so, I'm sorry for the moments when my son, my Beautiful Boy, learns the suffering that is a part of being alive. All I can do as a parent is accompany him through those moments the best I can.