I sat on the couch, leafing through a cookbook looking for Thanksgiving desserts, watching the news. M sat curled next to me, watching news from Paris, and the announcement from Colorado’s governor that we would accept Syrian refugees. M, of course, wanted to know what that meant. “It means that we’ll take people and help them if they’re running away from ISIS.”
“Good,” replied M. “They should have someplace to go.”
They should. I’m happy to hear my state will take them in. I’ve been thinking about it ever since. Me, safe at home with my family, trying to decide on a cheesecake, and these incredible groups of people fleeing from monsters, not knowing where they’re going or what they’ll find when they get there, just wanting to save themselves and their families. It’s easy enough to think of what I’d do in that situation, and how far I’d go to protect my daughters. I’d do anything. I think about how many parents are thinking the same thing.
It’s easy to get scared. It’s easy to see people as “other.” But they’re not. They’ve done nothing to deserve fear or violence. I haven’t done anything that makes me entitled to my security–it’s luck. I was lucky to be born in a safe place that recognizes my rights. I was lucky to be born with resources and education. Lucky to be able to put my daughters to bed at night and not worry about bombs coming through their windows. It’s luck. Not skill, not intelligence, not religion, not my skin. Luck. In the face of terrorism, luck can run out in an instant.
I’ve met refugees who touched my life in the course of a few minutes. I’ve met them from Iraq, Vietnam, Laos, Africa, and Thailand. I met an incredible one from Afghanistan–please, read his story here. It’s his face I see in the faces of Syrian refugees. I see the face of a man who risked his life merely to survive, and was grateful every day for the relief he was given. A man who didn’t want to take anything from his benefactors–he just wanted to live. I see a kind, intelligent man who might have been mistaken for Taliban–who we might have feared. I see the faces of my gentle Muslim friends who want nothing more than to raise their families in peace.
Here’s an article about how people felt about the Jewish refugees at the beginning of World War II. We honor people now who housed those refugees and saved them from Nazis. We make movies about them and read their tales to our children. What will we do now? Are we willing to take the chance and do the right thing?