I was reading a newspaper last night. Yep, despite being a hep guy plugged into the interweb, I still get much of my news via the newspaper.
It was, in fact, the Toronto Sun, my paper of choice, and not solely because it features the incisive, witty, extremely funny writing of that gorgeous and brilliant entertainment columnist, Liz Braun. And I’m probably not saying that just because she reads this.
I was catching up on the international news, still dominated by the horrible natural disasters in Burma and China, when a picture caught my eye.
And held it. And held it. And I found myself returning to that page again and again to look at it.
The photograph was by Andy Wong of the Associated Press. This is it:
(If you’re reading this online you can click the picture to see a larger version.)
The caption said: A young earthquake survivor feeds his baby brother with noodles at a refugee camp in Yongan town, 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Beichuan county in southwest China's Sichuan province, Sunday, May 25, 2008.
I was struck by many things in the photo. Not the least is the focus in the older boy’s eyes. His furrowed brows indicate he is taking his job very seriously. His lips are slightly pursed, his mouth prepared to mimic his little brother’s upcoming gape when he fully accepts the noodles. (I learned long ago, when watching someone feed a baby, to keep my eyes on the feeder, not the baby. It’s hilarious how they contort their mouths with every spoonful. And yes, I know I did it too. Pretty sure it’s one of those autonomic reactions, like knee jerks and hanging up on telemarketers.)
The little brother’s attention appears to be on his hands more than on his brother, or the chopsticks. To me, his distraction is indicative of the confidence and trust he has in his sibling. He can afford to focus elsewhere because he has faith that his brother will look after him.
Could the faceless woman in the background be their mother? I hope so. But something tells me she would be feeding the baby if she was the mom.
The colours in the photo are warm and vibrant, adding much to the gentle beauty of the scene.
If we were to zoom upwards from our view of this peaceful tableau, we’d likely see thousands of people packed into refugee camps. We’d see mile after mile after mile of rubble. We’d see rescuers pulling bodies from the ruins. If we could hear, I’m sure there would be moans from the wounded and wailing from the bereaved. If we could smell - we’d wish we were just about anywhere else.
I’m sure that Mr. Wong’s camera has recorded many photos that would make us recoil in horror. He’s clicked on scenes of near-unimaginable misery. I’m deeply appreciative that he snapped this one. If I had one, it would get my vote for a Pulitzer.
We can’t take over that little boy’s job. We can’t hand-feed those who need it. But most of us can afford a few dollars to help buy more noodles.
Mr. Wong’s picture is a gentle reminder that we are all our brothers’ keepers and that man is never more ennobled than when he is helping others.