How The Syrian Refugee Crisis Can Unite Parents From All Nations

by Julie Wheaton
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When people around me talk about the injustices of the world, more often than not, it's done in a third person point of view. Most of us have not walked in the shoes of those making headlines. It becomes very easy to sigh deeply and move on with our day.

When I see images of emaciated bodies lining fences of barbed wire or hear a story about an ethnic group fleeing life as they know it to seek asylum, my Western education immediately thinks of WWII and Auschwitz, maybe even 1960s Berlin. These were big events that made the history books. These trials of historical injustices spark an immediate knee-jerk reaction. They make you think, what could possibly be worse?

Well, here comes the big flaw of some mindsets today. What's worse is, many of us think that the hypothetical history book of horrifying events slams shut there. It's almost as if we didn't learn about it in school, then it couldn't have happened.

I'm a parent. I have children to raise. Surely I can raise my children in a world that provides peace and a common understanding of universal human rights, right?

Wrong. The opposite is happening right now as we speak. As Americans, I think we hear the words “refugee” and “Syria,” and there's an immediate disconnect. We don't skip a beat in chewing our food while news anchors stand in rubble and drone on about things many of us have no real empathy for.

Why? Because it doesn't affect us, really. At least it doesn't in the physical sense of our everyday lives. We house ourselves inside safe little bubbles. I'm still able to pass the peas to my son who sits across the table and play the game of “eat two more bites like a big girl” with my daughter.

Then, it happens. The news anchor fades out, and pictures of scared children flash across my flat screen.

Like so many others, I have grown numb to much of what I see on the evening news. It's mostly angry talking heads arguing about politics, and it makes me sad. But as a mother and teacher, I can't look away from the images of children. It's like a switch inside.

Some of them are so thin that they look almost skeletal. Here is my family, sitting safely at a bountiful dinner table.

I wonder how much time has passed since they have done the same. They are traveling in boats and can't swim. They're climbing barbed wire.

They are running in the streets in small groups with no adult in sight. Some of them are even lying lifeless on the ground as mothers or fathers stand over them and weep.

My safety bubble suddenly feels violated. It's like a shot to the gut. I have no words.

This is a call to all parents. What if that were you? What if this complacent life as you knew it went to sh*t, and you lived in the absolute terror that your babies could be harmed by some form of terrorism any day now? The options for these families are few and very, very grim.

The big decision in my house this week is choosing between activities like spring soccer or spring baseball. The big decision for some of these Syrians is "Do we take our chances and stay, or do we run like hell?" Many can't even cast a vote for option one, as their homes were bombed and in ruins.

While we prep our kids for that upcoming spelling test on Friday, they are prepping theirs on how to survive in the midst of war. Again, I have no words. I cannot fathom their situation. It hurts my heart that some people remain indifferent or worse.

You see, the love of a mother and father is probably the most universal concept on this planet. There is this hope that we will raise these little people to be more successful than ourselves.

This is no different in Syria. Those parents want to provide safety and opportunity for their kids, too.

I get it that most of us feel helpless to these woes and think there's nothing we can do. I understand it's a terrible, complicated mess of politics and economics and anger. I understand I am just small person in a big, big world. But this big world could use much more empathy than we are currently providing.

Awareness and acknowledgement of what is happening to these people is a step in the right direction. Because if we're all at the very least attempting to be on the same page, the tides may start turning. Someone out there may have an epiphany, a stroke of brilliance or a mere suggestion that could make an impact. This is how change starts.

I can't relate to the sorrows of the families in Syria, but I do know what it feels like to be a mother. What wouldn't you do for your children? Parenting is a selfless, lifelong call to action. I know I would risk my life for the safety of mine. I don't even like the term “refugees." At the end of the day, they are just people. We are all just people.

A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the whole world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.

Agatha Christie