The usual routine after descending the stairs two mornings a week is to be met by an overeager Labrador very ready to head out for the Great Salt Marsh and ensure everything will be as he left it yesterday. But sometimes before being dragged out the door I’m able to catch a glance at the Wall Street Journal’s center headline and photo. Such was the case this past Wednesday; Headline: Afghan Widows Struggle to Survive the Long Shadow of War and Photo Caption: Alone.
The face of the woman was lined with war and worry and her piercing eyes drilled into mine from the flat page. That look would have been enough for me to do what I usually do with the evocative photos from this paper, that is, to pin them up on the family bulletin board for all to note. But because the caption went on to declare she was not filled with 75 years as I assumed she was, rather, she was my exact age, that sweet number just one shy of three score, I knew I had to do more. I will reach this three score ‘landmark’ next month, God willing, but in that moment and right now, as she steams across the marsh with me having come out of my backpack here on the train, we are together and yet a thousand miles and years apart.
Looking at her makes me want to do several things at once. I’d like to tell her someone is holding her photo and feeling a small part of the loss she and thousands like her must carry each day as they seek to survive a landscape I can’t imagine. War-torn, incalculable personal loss to so many people here and there, hope so dim and land so burned, we might wonder if any redemption is possible, let alone nigh. I realize I want to make more room in my life to think about these hard things, so many hard things going on in so many nations of the world at this very moment. I want to believe that I am a tiny part of some kind of solution through my work, my thoughts, my children, my prayers.
Now I must fold her up and put her back into my pack, climb out of this train and wonder, even if only for a moment, what her day and my day will be like. Will she find enough fellowship and food to continue to hold up her head in her grief and daily living? And will I find at my day’s end, I have hoped this for her more than just this once?
 Photo: Paula Bronstein for The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2015, page 1