I cried twice today.
Once this morning just after I’d wished my number three baby a happy 16th birthday. A wave of emotion overtook me. I remembered the day she arrived; the laughter, joy and struggle of having three under five; the way she’d fall asleep in her seat on the back of my bike after pre-school; her ability to watch Monsters Inc every day for months on end; her first day at school; the day she had her hair cut super short (after months of asking me to take her to have it done) and cried, ‘I want it back to normal!’ half way through; school Christmas concerts; holidays; bedtime stories; pirate birthday parties; her baptism last year; so many more precious memories. I rushed away and composed myself, hopefully before she noticed that I’d choked up.
The second time I cried after following a link online through Voices for Children and looking at a photo essay of sleeping refugee children. One sleeps on the forest floor, some on the pavement near a closed border. Photo after photo of children who have lost their homes, family members, and suffered unimaginable trauma. I got to one picture of one child with tears filling their eyes and that finished me. The stories that accompany the photos tell a little of their experiences and mention the nightmares they have when they sleep. Some of the children associate pillows with danger as the bombing and raids that they experienced occurred at night. They are vulnerable, still on a journey, still far from home. Their memories are marred by fear and flight. Children who have been through far more than children ever should. I want to hug and comfort them all, and bring them to safety.
The most dangerous place my daughter ever slept was at the top of a staircase when she was two years old – no comparison to an unsheltered forest floor or pavement. She crept out of bed one night when we had people visiting and, not wanting to disturb us, she curled up on the top step and fell asleep. We found her there as our friends were leaving, balanced right along the edge. Children can and do sleep anywhere. We scooped her up and put her back in her warm bed (after taking a photo of course).
How blessed we are to have raised our children in relative safety.
I know it’s easy to shed tears, far less easy to actually be the welcome, to take time to help. In a few weeks time we have that opportunity.
Refugees from Syria are arriving here. Reading the stories of those children today reminded me that each one of those refugees is an individual with their own story. It’s not just one, but a thousand stories. Whatever they have experienced, their loss, their pain, their hopes and dreams, or the length of their journey, I hope and pray that having been scooped up and brought here they will find peace, rest and healing in our city. A welcome. A place of safety and hope.