The newspapers, and our social media timelines have recently been full with news of people (whom the media usually likes to call ‘migrants’) fleeing their homes in far-flung places, desperately seeking refuge in a country not ravaged by war.
Most recently, we have been hearing about tragedies that have befallen Syria. We have been reading about innocent people, so many of whom have drowned in the Mediterranean after the boats they hoped would take them to safety encountered difficulties.
One of these innocents, a three year old boy named Aylan Kurdi who was found drowned on a Turkish beach last week, has galvanised people into taking action to raise much-needed awareness of the Syrians’ plight, and funds to provide practical support.
I am proud of the parenting blogger community, many of whom have worked very hard over the past couple of days to create a movement to remind people that Syrians are human beings. That if not for an accident of birth, it could have been us. People have been helping raise money for Save The Children’s Syria appeal by sending a simple text (to donate £5, text SYRIA to 70008).
Sadly, the campaign has attracted some criticism. Some have questioned why we are supporting children in Syria rather than needy youngsters in this country, while others have pointed out that children from many other countries are in need, too.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, of course (and all the better if that opinion is conveyed in a way that respects all views).
I think it is worth pointing out that no one is saying that children from Syria are no more worth saving than anyone else.
No child should be born to die.
All deaths of children are tragic. However they occur, and in whichever country they occur.
The deaths of children forced to fight for militias in war-ravaged countries all over the world.
The deaths of children forced to marry young, and bear children.
The deaths of children forced to live on the streets.
The deaths of babies born prematurely.
The deaths of babies from cancer, sudden infant death, all kinds of illnesses, accidents.
The deaths of children from all kinds of illnesses, accidents, abuse.
We care about them all.
No child born to die.
All children should have the opportunity to grow up, go to school, be naughty, eat ice cream, play with their friends. To have cuddles with their mummy and daddy. To grow up.
As a mother whose own child died, I know how fragile life is. To see such waste of life breaks my heart.
Little Aylan has captured so much attention because knowing someone’s identity helps encourage empathy. It’s the way we relate. He became a human, not just another nameless body on the news.
Aylan has given us something for us to relate to. A background.
You could see that Aylan was a little boy whose mummy and daddy loved very much. Well-dressed, and with his shoes still tightly strapped to his feet. The photo of he and his brother on the sofa, grinning away impishly.
It brought home the point to so many parents. It could have been us.
My wonderful friend Beth shared this insightful quote on Facebook yesterday:
Empathy is not finite, and compassion is not a pizza with eight slices. When you practice empathy and compassion with someone, there is not less of these qualities to go around. There’s more. Love is the last thing we need to ration in this world. The refugee in Syria doesn’t benefit more if you conserve your kindness only for her and withhold it from your neighbour who’s going through divorce.
Brene Brown, Rising Strong
To me, the point is if you see someone suffering, something you would like to change, do something about it. Dependent on where or what the suffering is volunteer, fundraise, raise awareness. Do something. Don’t sit and talk about it, or criticise others for the action they feel compelled to take.
I would love to fix the world. Let no child be born to die. Let no human being suffer. Sometimes the scale of destruction in the world can feel so overwhelming we can wonder what a difference our actions can possibly make.
Keep going. Remember the story about the boy and the starfish (the story of a boy by the seashore is especially poignant in this context).
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”