If the little girl on the left looked like the little girl on the right, would you let her in?
That’s what I want to say – no, that’s too mild of a word, SCREAM might be better – to all of those people who are popping up on social media, on the radio and in my real-life interactions with their “close the gates and keep out the enemies” mentality towards Syrian refugees.
I’ve ranted to anyone who would listen about how it’s time we opened our hearts and our borders to these people and just let them in already.
Then I saw this series of photographs – incredible, heartbreaking, soul-aching photographs of refugee children, shot by Swedish photographer Magnus Wennman and now making the rounds on social media. And immediately my arms ached to pick them up, every one of them, and tuck them in to a nice warm bed under a nice warm roof and feed them soup and tell them everything will be okay.
Because right now it’s so frighteningly far from okay that it makes my head spin and my gut churn just trying to imagine what they’re going through.
It’s not okay that there are two-year-olds, three-year-olds, five-year-olds out there shivering in dark forests, wondering if they’ll ever see anything resembling a home again. It’s not okay that there are children who are afraid to lay their heads on their pillows because they know that when they do, the bombs start and the world falls apart. It’s not okay that there are small, vulnerable human beings out there who have already lost their homes, their toys, their belongings, their families, and who just need somewhere warm to spend the night.
To those who don’t want to let the refugees in, I ask this: What if it was my daughter?
That’s her up there on the right, by the way. She’s got a warm bedroom, a cosy bed filled with stuffies, a pile of warm blankets to snuggle under. For her, a tough day is when Mommy says no to another Daniel Tiger video or when she has wear her jacket because Daddy won’t let her go outside in the rain without it. She has no idea what hardship is. What deprivation is. What loss is. She has no idea what real fear is – not ordinary three-year-old fears like monsters and shadows and the dark, but the ingrained terror that lives deep in the soul of people who’ve seen and lived through things that no one should ever have to experience.
She has no idea that there are children her own size who are hungry and cold and frozen and frightened and alone. She has no idea that there are people in our country who would prefer to close their doors and their eyes and shut those children out, rather than accept our responsibility as citizens of the world to take them in, to take their parents in, to offer them a safe place to build a new life away from terror, away from fear, away from the kind of loss that no one should ever have to experience.
She has no idea that it’s sheer good fortune she was born here and now, to a family who can provide for her, in a country full of abundance. She has no idea that across the world, thanks to nothing but a dark twist of fate, there are little girls just her size who have nowhere to go tonight.
She doesn’t need to know any of that yet.
But you do. Yes, you reading this blog. You and all your neighbours and friends and relatives and co-workers and everyone you meet on the streets and in your daily life.
We all need to know that when we let xenophobia, racism and fear control our decisions, we will fail in our duty as human beings.
We cannot allow this kind of suffering to continue.
To those who say no, we cannot afford to help, we need to look after our own first: This isn’t an either-or situation. We can – and must – do both. We must feed our own children, clothe our own citizens in need, provide a roof over the head of each and every person who needs one.
These are not small tasks. But that is why we elect governments: to take on the tasks that are too monumental for one person to change alone. And that is why we, the citizens of this country, have to step up and do our part – and that part begins with an accepting heart and an open mind.
After all, unless you are aboriginal, you too are an immigrant, or descended from one. Whether one generation or many removed from another land, whether that land was nearby or across oceans, we all share the common fact of having come from somewhere else.
Your ancestors, and mine, left other lands in other times for all kinds of reasons: poverty, famine, war, persecution, the search for a better life.
That little blonde girl of mine is descended from immigrants from Ireland, from Scotland, from Ukraine. Her ancestors fled persecution, poverty and famine and came to a land that welcomed them to start again.
They helped to build the country we know today.
Let us not let them down by closing our doors now. And let’s not ever have to explain to that little blonde girl of mine why our country turned other little girls away and let them cry themselves to sleep in the forest.