The Challenge to “Not Go Numb”

“Just numb it!” I say emphatically every time I go to the dentist. “I don’t want to feel a thing.”

And it’s true. I had five babies naturally with barely a thought of intervention of any kind — but my teeth? Just numb me up. Laughing gas, ether, even a couple shots of whiskey, I’ll take anything! I just want to go numb.

And sometimes I feel like this with world events. Just numb me. I don’t want to feel them. I can’t do a thing about these events so just numb me.

But the challenge from those on the ground, indeed the plea from those on the ground is that we not go numb. Nancy Lindborg from USAID says “Our challenge is to not go numb, to remember the numbers, to remember the faces.” 

She said this a couple of months ago during a live panel discussion on Syria. The panel was sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a center devoted to the bipartisan solutions and insights into international issues affecting our world today.

The panel was clear and informative and served as an excellent resource on what is going on today in a conflict that daily struggles to reach the headlines, largely because it has gone on too long and lost our attention, more importantly – lost the world’s attention. The Syrian conflict is white noise in a world drowning from information overload. 

But I want to remember and I don’t want to go numb. So as I listened to the panel I frantically scribbled notes, discernible only to me, on a piece of scrap paper so that I would remember some of the key points.

Here are some of those points: 

  • Humanitarian agencies were not targeted in the past – they have been systematically attacked in Syria.
  • “Fewer clinics being bombed because there are fewer clinics to bomb” – this statement, again from Nancy Lindborg, shouted at me.
  • Polio, measles out breaks feared – so many people at such close quarters
  • Syria was a middle-income country. yet people are leaving with nothing so the need for basic supplies is huge.
  • Huge problems”water sanitation, health needs especially due to egregious targeting of civilian facilities (hospitals, doctors)”
  • Humanitarian Aid groups are continually looking for ways that not only stabilize but build resilience inside and outside the country of Syria.
  • Need to strengthen the countries who are taking in refugees, only then will they have the ability to meet the needs of the massive refugee population.
  • The number of refugees who have come into Lebanon is the equivalent of the United States absorbing another state of California. It’s a massive influx of people and resources are already slim to help with those who are citizens.

And now it’s not just Syria. It’s the aftermath of Gaza, an age-old conflict that is wearing new rags and hurting another generation. It’s the evil of ISIS. It’s Ferguson and the continued rumblings of racism and grief. It’s floods in Pakistan. It’s poverty and homelessness in Central Square, my back yard. And oh how I want to go numb.

Where is the hope? 

Hope is in “9th grade girls back in school after losing 3 years – seeing them was extraordinarily inspiring.” Hope is in 400,000 refugee children being able to start school again in Lebanon. Hope is in young Somali refugees sending letters to Syrian refugees, a show of solidarity and understanding. Hope is in surgeons who are healing in the midst of war. Hope is in those that believe, against all odds, that there is a future, a future and a hope. Hope is in my Parish – Holy Resurrection, with people who have come forward in extraordinary ways to donate vitamins, infant tylenol, and wound supplies for refugees in Turkey.

Hope is in people who don’t go numb, but continue to watch, to pray, and to act. 

5 thoughts on “The Challenge to “Not Go Numb”

  1. Oh Marilyn You have such a gift for communicating ‘the heart of God’ where there is crisis! My heart is breaking as tears run down my cheeks and I wish so much that I could also go with You and help in any way I could. But, I don’t have any medical background which I longed to do years ago but I was always traveling. Be assured of our love and prayers as both You and Cliff are in the region with such need and reaching out with ‘hope.’ How exciting to hear of the schooling being made possible for the thousands of refugee children in Lebanon…


  2. I would like to totally parrot Marilyn’s Mom’s words. I too, was praying the other day and stopped mid sentence with the thought….”Will this prayer really help? Does God really listen or care?” My own conflicts about prayer requests often get in the way of just plain “asking” and letting God sort it all out. I get so tired of my doubts about the effectiveness of praying. I pray and then turn on the news, lift my head and look around and well…..much remains the same. And yet…I don’t seem to be able to stop praying. There is so much suffering, so much struggling for so many today the world over. And so I continue to pray. Rays of hope indeed are so needed. Thank you Marilyn once again for your words.


    1. I think that’s why it felt so important for me to write – because somehow being willing to continue to pray is part of not going numb. It might not feel like enough from a limited human perspective, but from eternity what does it look like. Thanks again Barbara – for coming by and adding your voice.


  3. Reading this, I feel so sad for the people who have lost so much, and as painful as it is, as helpless as I feel in the face of the enormity of the problems, I don’t want to go numb. Does my caring and my praying do any good? I don’t know and really, I don’t need to know because at the very least it is proof that I have not forgotten,have not turned my back, and have not gone numb. Thanks for the reminder, Marilyn. And thanks for concluding with the rays of hope.


Add to the discussion...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s