Years ago, I was a blog-happy missionary, bouncing around the world with nothing but a 65-liter frame pack and a lot of good intentions. I came home with a lighter pack, but a heavier load of the stories and images and love of people… like Isaac in Malaysia.
Just after he dropped us off at the train station to leave his city of Ipoh, Isaac sent me a goodbye text. It said, “See you in a small world.”
I haven’t seen Isaac since then, but our world is definitely small, and I definitely see him in it. I will never hear or read the news without picturing the faces of my friends. So with Ukraine spinning into chaos lately, this is what it looks like for my world to be small: I find myself looking past the color-coded political maps, the UN sanctions, the military movement, and just wondering if the Biletskys–my host family–are ok. I don’t know what it will mean for their family if they are suddenly Russian rather than Ukrainian. They’ve always spoken Russian–everyone in their area does. But they have so many foster children. What will support their family if their Ukrainian documentations are suddenly considered invalid? Many of their children are disabled. How will they receive the medical care they need?
I skim news articles long enough to know basics. I walk to the Ukrainian embassy to give myself time to think of them. There, I stare at the photos of the fallen protesters and I pray and pray and pray.
My small world would not be shattered by the shots fired in Simferopol, or by what Secretary Kerry will say to Vladimir Putin, except that those things might mean thriving or struggle to my once-upon-a-time family. My thoughts rarely venture to Kiev or Moscow with the major news sources–but they are often in Frunze or Saki, tiny villages full of gardens that hardly make a mark on the map.
But because I care what happens in Mama Anya’s kitchen in the country, I have to care whose flag is flying above the government buildings in the city. That is my small world: when big things happen, I see small places and real people. The news may never be about Frunze, but that part of Crimea is part of my world, part of me.
I wish I had left each of my friends with the words that Isaac left me. Even if I never visit them again, they have made my world small, and I always, always see them.