This blog consists of a series of letters written to my friend, a Syrian refugee who has moved into my neighborhood. We have become close friends in spite of a language barrier. Love needs no language but there are things I wish I could tell her. I write these letters in hopes that one day she will be able to read them. I share in hopes that others will follow me on this journey and learn with me along the way. More posts available: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/kathleen-jacobson
My dear Friend Safaa,
I am still not used to the conversations we have while sitting around your living room drinking tea, especially after feeling sensitive to the fact that this month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad attacked his people with chemical bombs; killing men, women and children. We discussed that a little and then you told me that there was threat from the government that your home town of Douma would be bombed with chemical weapons at 4pm the day before. You still had not heard from your sister who still lives there.
How do you remain hopeful in the face of all the death in Syria? Your family still thinks that they will return to Syria one day. You daughter told me that she will show me everything that is beautiful there. Is anything still beautiful there?
How did I come to care so much about a place so far away, so much out of my little California world? I know the answer; it’s because of your children. I see them playing with the neighbor children, teasing each other at the dinner table and even arguing with each other like typical siblings. I love these children. I know them. They tell me about school and their challenges and joys. I have gone on field trips with your daughter’s class, parent teacher conferences, career day at your son’s school, to the dentist with each of your children and numerous doctor appointment. Your children are more than just the children of a friend. They are the children of my heart. They call me auntie and every time I hear that name, I feel tears well up in my eyes.
You still had not heard from your sister
Last month I watched a movie called “Cries From Syria.” The movie was full of graphic pictures of people dying. Many images show dead children. The movie made me sad but it also made me angry. I felt a hatred well up in me for President Bashar al-Assad. This is a hatred that felt foreign to me but I think it is the hatred that comes when someone has hurt a person you love. I know your stories. I don’t know them all but you have shared so much with me. I can’t imagine from my comfortable home, the life you have lived since 2007. You have shared with me what you lost. You oldest son has shared with me the worst stories. He told me of helping to bring the injured to get help, like a makeshift ambulance transport. He told me about the blood and the death. He told me about picking up dead children from the streets. He told me about finding only parts of bodies. No fifteen year-old should see such things.
I know your stories. I don’t know them all but you have shared so much with me. I can’t imagine, from my comfortable home, the life you have lived since 2007
Knowing what I know, I can’t help but separate in my mind, your children from the children that are dying in Syria. I know that it was a difficult decision to leave. It was a difficult escape to get out of the country alive. I can’t help but think, What if you didn’t get out? That thought haunts me every day. So I am changed because I know you. I used to be self-centered. I would hear of terrible things happening in the world and I would think it was sad, but then I would put it out of my mind and go on with my life. After all, what could I do? I can’t change the world.
He told me about the blood and the death. He told me about picking up dead children from the streets. He told me about finding only parts of bodies. No fifteen year-old should see such things.
I decided that I don’t need to change the world. I will do only what I can do. I thought about what that means and for me right now, it is helping you and loving your family. The more I learn, the more I need to say. I need to tell people what I have learned from you. Many people don’t know what the Syrian refugees have endured. Many people don’t care because they don’t know. I will speak out when I can. That is what I can do.
I want to tell your stories because President Bashar al-Assad has denied what he is doing to the Syrian people. I want to tell the truth so the world can hear them. Assad has slaughtered his people in horrible ways and he lives without guilt or compassion. I want him to see the world turn on him for what he has done. I want him to face his crimes. I want justice for you my friend. I want to visit Syria with you one day when it has been rebuilt and you can show me the beauty returned to your beloved country.
A poem by Kathleen Jacobson
In dead silence
side by side
some in blankets
not enough for all
sons and daughters
as in prayer
on this warm
air filled with