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The First Lesson in Humanity

Olga Ferreras-Anderson
Alexandria VA USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 21 No. 3, May-June 2004, p. 90

During my last visit to New York City, I found myself unable to avoid reading the front page of someone else's newspaper while riding on the subway with my two children sitting on my lap. The pictures and headlines spoke of truly unnecessary horror. I don't want to see those stories. I don't want to know the tragedies in this world that surrounds my children. I was overcome with sadness and I tried to hide my eyes from my daughter's, since she was so excited about riding on a New York subway train for the first time. I thought my eyes would show my grief, and worse -- my lack of hope for the world and my powerlessness.

Back in our hotel room, I turned on the TV to find literary Nobel laureate, Toni Morrison, being interviewed. Morrison, wise and wonderful as she is, was answering a question about what kind of speech she would give. Her answer was that she would talk about reconnecting with our humanity. She said that deep inside of us we all know what is right and what is wrong, that we have to listen to this inner voice, and become more human. "We have to. We have to. We just have to," she repeated, exhorting us. Her words found their way into my heart and I felt tears running down my cheeks.

My little boy curled up in my lap to nurse himself to sleep as my daughter changed the channel. I could still hear Morrison's words inside my head -- "More human." But how will we find our human spirit when the world is overcome by power struggles and greed? My baby was searching for my nipple with his lips. It is so amazing the way he can find the breast and latch on anytime, anywhere: in the dark, in his sleep, and even as a tiny newborn, when I would have thought that he knew nothing at all. It was then that I thought of all the breastfeeding mothers in the world, who are so well connected with humanity. As a breastfeeding mother, you have chosen to feed your baby the human way: with your arms, with your love, and with your milk. You are teaching your child his first lesson in humanity. And, even though I suppose that breastfeeding alone cannot save the world, I have to believe that it is a firm step in the right direction. Suddenly, I didn't feel powerless anymore.

To all breastfeeding mothers, thank you. Thank you for what you are doing for your baby, and thank you for what you are doing for my babies. You are making the world a more human place, a better place for all of us.

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