Compassion is needed

When I drop my daughter off at preschool each morning, I know that I will pick her up that afternoon.  I don’t fear that her school will be hit by bombs and I will have to identify the pieces of her body.  When I go out to a restaurant with friends, I don’t scan the people around me to see if anyone looks like they have something strapped to their chest that might explode, I just go and sit and eat, and tip well when the meal is over.  I don’t go to concerts very often, but a few weeks ago I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands, and not once did I fear that I might get shot.

I walk down the streets with my children, and I’m not always scanning for doorways to dive into, just in case. I can go to markets, and when I leave, I know I will be walking, not running, and the buildings behind me will still be standing.

I know where my next meal is coming from, and the one after that, and the one after that.  If all the nearby grocery stores were suddenly emptied, I could feed my family for a couple of weeks with what we have in the pantry.  Sure, we’d be sick of beans and rice, but we’d survive, and we’d be pretty well fed.

My husband goes to work each day.  Not once have I feared that he will be kidnapped along the way, that I will get a ransom note, or have to watch a video of him being beheaded.

Tonight, I will tuck my daughters into their beds.  And when I kiss them goodnight and walk away, I know that in the morning, I will be able to wake them up.  They will still have a bed, and a room.  I do not fear that I will have to look for them in the rubble, because I do not fear bombs at night.

I have this safety, these advantages because I had the good fortune to be born to American parents.  I didn’t earn my safety. I didn’t have to work for it.  I was born in the United States, and I have benefited from that every day of my life.

It breaks my heart when I look at pictures of Syrian refugee children, sleeping on the ground, cold and dirty and scared.  These children don’t have the same advantages mine do, simply because they were born somewhere else.  While my children are fed and bathed and sleep on soft mattresses under a solid roof, these children fear their pillows and worry about their parents, and mourn their lost siblings.

When I look at my Facebook news feed, I see a lot of smug self-righteous people saying hey, don’t let those refugees into my country.  Make them take a religious test first.  Only let in women and children, send the men back to fight and die (or join the enemy for self-preservation and end up killing more innocent people). We shouldn’t allow them to come here, because we don’t have the resources. If we don’t help our homeless vets, why should we help anyone else?

What do you mean we don’t have the resources? True, we have an unequal distribution of wealth.  There are billionaires eating caviar and pouring out thousand dollar bottles of wine in their private jets while families with small children line up at food banks and our disabled vets eat from soup kitchens.  But we do have the resources to help.  As a whole, we are fat and happy and healthy.  We are rich. We are safe.  If we don’t help our homeless vets, the fault isn’t with the refugees but with us, with our unwillingness to pay taxes, with our condemnation of the poor and the addicted, with our lack of compassion for the least among us within our own borders.

I’m not afraid of Syrian children.  They aren’t out to destroy my way of life. The only harm they can cause me is that looking at their pictures makes me cry, and I don’t like crying. I’m not afraid of their parents either, or the other thousands who are fleeing the violence.  Is it possible that a terrorist can sneak in with the refugees? Sure.  But is it something we should fear? Is that a weapon we should use against the poor broken people looking for safe harbor? Sorry, a bad guy might sneak in with the rest of you, so you’ll all have to fend for yourselves. Best of luck, but stay on that side of the fence.

Why are so many people asking “how can we stop them from coming?” rather than “how can we help them?” Why isn’t the discussion what we should do, rather than if we should do anything at all?

Why do I see so many people claim that because some people from a religion are terrorists, therefore every other member of that same religion is also a terrorist and should be harassed and shunned and sent off to die in a battle not of their choosing?

What happened to compassion? What happened to knowing that we are all in this together? We only have one world.  We only have one life on it.  We shouldn’t spend all our time immersed in fear and hate.

I don’t have the answers. I just know that we have a choice to make, and it is important, because it will decide our future. And if it were up to me, I would choose compassion, and openness, and spreading love rather than hate.