In a beautiful little book, Sleeping with Bread, there is a touching story about children in World War 2. Authors Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant and Matthew Linn share this story: “During the bombing raids of World War II, thousands of children were orphaned and left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and placed in refugee camps where they received food and good care. But many of these children who had lost so much could not sleep at night. They feared waking up to find themselves once again homeless and without food. Nothing seemed to reassure them. Finally, someone hit upon the idea of giving each child a piece of bread to hold at bedtime. Holding their bread, these children could finally sleep in peace. All through the night the bread reminded them, ‘Today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’”
In a similar story, a friend of mine, years ago, had adopted a little girl who was afraid. As her toddler was learning about her new home and family, she would gather up her little shoes from the front door every night and hold onto them. She would not let go of her precious treasures. It took time to learn about why she behaved this way. In the orphanage where she came from, other children would steal her shoes and leave her without. Even at this young age she expressed the fear of being unsafe and left behind. It took time to show this child that every morning her shoes would be at the front door. She was home, and she was safe.
These children needed the reassurance that they would not be left alone and without. They needed to know that they were safe and with people who cared for them.
I learned recently that the Chestermere food bank saw an increase of usage from 76 clients in January of this year, to 499 clients. Our community is facing the fear of being without. Covid-19, mortgage payments, illness, job loss, and broken relationships can stack up to make us feel like nothing will reassure us. Like those children, we need to be reminded that ‘today I ate and I will eat again tomorrow.’ We need to feel that here, in Chestermere, we are safe.
How do we comfort each other while facing challenges, sleeplessness, anxiety and worry? As a pastor and neighbour, I have found that sitting with people and listening is so important. Reassuring others of our safety, of the community that is around us, and the support that is a text or phone call away. We need to use our words to speak the truth, to remind each other that there will be a new day, and that we will get there together. We need beauty, stories, faith, and proximity to each other. We need our neighbourhood to come around us now more than ever.
What does it look like in your community to offer reassurance and to create a sense of safety for those you know? Your gentleness and kindness, often in the form of generosity of words and resources, can be life changing for people around you. Give others a reminder that you are part of their community, that you are cheering them on, and maybe you will be the hope that they hold onto at night, knowing that they are safe.