On June 4, 2016, my husband and I were surrounded by our closest friends and family as we tied the knot. That evening was spent spinning under twinkling stars, drinking bubbly concoctions and laughing until our bellies hurt.
It honestly felt like a dream and we couldn’t have imagined a better day to become a little family and forever partners-in-crime.
Yesterday our photographer gave us the online gallery of our wedding photos and as I sat flipping through them, an emotion I didn’t expect to feel came over me:
You see, when you work in the humanitarian industry like I do, the cloud of ignorance that you’ve been living with over your head suddenly disappears and gives way to a broader worldview, one that includes horrible, gut-wrenching atrocities and injustices.
Sometimes you selfishly want to put the cloud back over your head because the truth seems too much to bear. It’s too painful to see, hear or allow yourself to continually feel. But you can’t. Knowledge will always win against conscientious ignorance.
Whether it’s a wedding, summer vacation or an Instagram-worthy dinner party, our tendency in an always-social world is to focus on the highlights of our lives and the lives of people we know. But for the majority of the world, perfectly filtered images resting above #Blessed captions are the farthest thing from reality.
June 4 wasn’t and isn’t just the day of my blissful picture-perfect wedding. Every year, June 4 is designated by the United Nations as International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression.
The purpose of the day is to acknowledge the pain suffered by children throughout the world who are the victims of physical, mental and emotional abuse. This day affirms the UN’s commitment to protect the rights of children.
My wedding pictures and the memory of my wedding will always symbolize a stark contrast between “a life in all its fullness,” as World Vision describes it and a life laden with injustices and atrocities against innocent people, especially children.
Somewhere in the world while my happy wedding photos were being taken, a young girl under the age of 18 was being forced into marriage with a much older man. While my guests and I were gorging ourselves on more food than we needed, one in every nine people on earth went to bed hungry. And when we were busy dancing under the stars with our safety never being a thought or concern—hundreds of children were perishing in wars, suffering from injuries, experiencing emotional abuse, being forcefully enlisted to participate in armed conflicts and losing their parents, siblings and friends.
Although I am grateful and humbled for the celebration of our wedding and the gorgeous wedding photos that captured our bliss; I am also grateful my wedding anniversary and photos will forever serve to remind me to continue advocating and working for the children and families who are most vulnerable.
Today I ask myself, “Why me and not them?” Why can I experience a blissful wedding, food for every meal and a life free from violence? Why was I born where I was born and why were they born where they were born? These questions honestly leave me with more questions.
Life is short and those of us who are privileged and blessed enough to be able to come close to asking, “Why me and not them?” should continually work to see the world transformed by love and peace. The world may never get to a state of privileged wedding-day bliss everywhere.
But our effort will not be in vain.