Wednesday, March 2 Read Matthew 5:1-14
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5
The photograph that came up on my computer screen as I scrolled through the morning news rendered me speechless. Tears streamed down my face.
A dark-haired toddler, dressed in a red T-shirt and blue shorts, lay lifeless in the surf. He was face down in the wet sand, with his bottom raised up slightly, in that way little kids do when they sleep. But he wasn’t asleep. This little Syrian boy, Alan Kurdi, was 3 years old.
My personal understanding (and sadly, honestly, interest) in the Syrian refugee crisis in Europe had been largely limited until I viewed that picture. These are things I worry about: Did I send a dye-free, peanut-free snack to preschool? Have we signed up for fall soccer? Did I read enough to the boys this week? How does a 3-year-old boy – wearing clothes similar to my sons’ – end up dead on a beach? How does a mother caringly dress her child in play clothes and sneakers, but not buckle him into a life jacket as she places him in a boat? Life jackets are $20 at Target! I can even order them online from Amazon Prime and they will be on my front porch tomorrow.
Except my problems and frame of reference are riddled with suburban, American Midwest privilege. Amazon Prime doesn’t deliver to refugee camps, and people escaping from systematic killing couldn’t care less about food dye. You put your babies in a boat when drowning is the least of your fears. And you run toward hope.
Alan’s mom dressed him, fastened his shoes and hoped to reach Europe. To give her kids a chance at living without the fear of dying. She put her babies in a boat because hope outweighed her fears. I can only imagine her calming her children, imploring them to trust her: “How exciting! A boat ride! It will be an adventure. Mommy is here; we’ll all go together.” And I can only imagine the worry in her heart as she silently prayed for safe passage.
Is there a more poignant image for this crisis? Alan’s picture has been captioned “Humanity Washed Ashore.” A child, an innocent, a little boy traveling with his parents who were trying to give him the world – a better life, a safer life, a life with hope where there had been none.
This boy looks like he could be anyone’s child. My child? Perhaps. I hope not. But I also know I would do anything to give my kids the best chance at a life, and if that means fleeing death and putting them in a boat, I’d pull them close and say: “How exciting! A boat ride! It will be an adventure. Mommy is here; we’ll all go together.” And they would trust me, and we would all get in the boat.
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