Unreal. Like so many, I’ve been in coffee shops — including Starbucks — waiting to meet people before I order. To use the facilities. Once in a while not allowed to use the restroom as a non-paying customer, but never arrested.
It reminds me of a time I was in Philadelphia as a teen. One summer evening, five or six of us were walking to get cheesestakes after a church service. We were horsing around as we walked — playing, joking, grabbing each other’s ball caps sorta thing. A bit boisterous & loud...
I remember crossing a street from the North Philly neighbourhood we were in, to a fairly upscale, leafy street with pretty nice houses. Barely a few steps into the street, my friends warned me to quiet down, as they got suddenly quiet, reserved and alert. Even their pace slowed.
“Daddy. Why do they do it?”
The question filtered thick and suffocating like the dust particulates swirling in the basement air.
“Why do they bomb us? Did we do something wrong?”
Moussa clutched his little Eliana close to his chest. He stamped a protective kiss onto the 1/64
blonde, flattened curls at the crown of her head, the faint impression of his lips silhouetted by ash. Settling concrete dust was starting to encase their huddled figures in a tombstone shade of grey.
“No my sweet. We did nothing wrong.”
“Then why daddy? Why are they so 2/64
His eyes searched the room as if the answer might have fallen somewhere amidst the rubble.
“Should we be mean to make them stop?” Eliana continued.
“Well sweetie. You know we try to protect ourselves — and even tear down their weapons as we can. But when you 3/64
“I don’t want to be nice. Not to HER, Grandpa!”
“Why not, Carson?”
“She is, eh? How come?”
“She laughed at me in class. Said I was stupid.”
“I’m sorry, little buddy. You’re certainly not stupid.”
“She’s stupid! And she smells like...“
“..she smells like cabbage!”
“Cabbage, eh? Huh. But you shouldn’t call her stupid. You don’t want to be mean.”
“I don’t care. She hurt me.”
“I know, son. And that’s wrong. But you’ve got to be kind.”
“But I don’t want to be kind. It doesn’t feel good. I don’t like it!”
“Yeah, I feel that way too sometimes.”
“Why is it hard to be nice, Grandpa?”
“Hard to be...Well, I’ve never thought...” He fiddled with the stone bowl in his lap. “Uh. I guess it’s so hard...because it’s work our heart has to do,” Grandpa Joe replied with a dawning reluctance.
Went to Azraq Refugee Camp in Jordan today. Official population at 53,967, according to @UNHCR as of February 2018. All Syrian #refugees.
In many ways it was not what I expected.
First thing you notice is how remote the location is — some 100 kms east of Amman; 20 kms from Azraq town; 75 kms to Saudi Arabia; 255 kms to Iraq; and 90 kms to the Syrian border — from which its inhabitants fled.
At the same time, the harshness of the setting — a hardscrabble, sprawling 15 square km patch, scratched, etched and stretched out of endless rolling desert.
The perimeter was equally formidable, with security fencing, official patrols, check points and razor wire.
Here in Jordan today I met a man working in a small shop delighting customers with his craft.
“Canada,” I replied to his query of where I’m from. “You?”
“You’ve heard of it?”
“Seen pictures. It was beautiful before the war” I replied.
After watching him work silently for a bit, I gently inquired “Did your family make it safely out of Syria?”
“Mostly.” He said softly. “My brother died.”
A pause. “So did my daughter.”
“Oh. I am so sorry.” I said. After a moment, “How old was she?”
Six months? His little girl? Only six months old. Just a baby. Killed in the conflict. I wasn’t prepared for that. I suppose —far more deeply — neither was he.
“I’m so sorry.” I whispered.
“What was her name?”
His eyes lifted and looked beyond the window.