It has been this parent’s hope that our children become good world citizens. A hope that they become civic minded and motivated to help those in crisis. That they see a need in the world or even in their own neighborhood and lend a hand. That they are kind to those less fortunate. I believe this is an attitude that can only be taught by to them by their parents. And so the buck stops with me.
My children and the children of my friends and family have lived privileged lives. They have had food and shelter and access to good education and many opportunities. This makes me grateful in the face of the current events in the world. Right now one of the largest human migrations in history is happening as people flee Syria for safety in Europe. The magnitude of this event continues to stagger me. In every parent’s face I see desperation and fear and their hope to bring their little ones out of a nightmare and reclaim a home and normalcy.
I am so fortunate. I do not know the panic of taking what I can from a destroyed home and bundling my children into a rocky boat for a harrowing ride to a place where we could be turned away by border guards or unsympathetic people. I cannot imagine hiding with my little ones in some flimsy shelter as scud missiles destroy our neighborhood. I can watch from afar as children are arrested and jailed for throwing stones or just for being the wrong religion or ethnic group. I can sip my glass of wine as I watch the images of displaced families trying to find a home.
The problems I have faced I consider first world problems. What time is dance practice? Can I make the music recital? What should we have for dinner? Do I have to go to the grocery store again even though this grocery store is filled to the roof with goods and food and choices beyond any imagining? I can take for granted that there is a full grocery store, or a gas station to refill my car or electricity and heat in my home.
I’m not suggesting that anyone has an easy life. Everyone I know has suffered tragedy, heartbreak, sadness and despair. My little family has dealt with the devastating fear of a life threatening childhood diagnosis and months of hospitals and medicines and sleepless nights. But we have had access to world-class hospitals; Harvard trained doctors, cutting edge medications and were blessed with health and survival.
The parents we see running through the fields and along the train tracks are not so lucky.
What do we teach our children about the trouble of the world and how they can help? How do you not make them feel guilty for their great blessings but rather have them see that they have the power to make a change? I believe the truth to be by our example only. Compassion cannot be taught with words. Righteous anger at human injustices cannot be learned from a book.
Mahatma Gandhi said “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
In this age of great connections through technology it is possible to assume I can understand the pain those fleeing parents feel. But I truly cannot. I just try to keep courage and compassion in my own heart and hope that the rippling effects of those emotions can somehow reach them. And then look to my own neighborhood to see where I can help.