“His Name Was Alan Kurdi”

via: http://globalnews.ca/news/2201568/in-photos-world-mourns-drowned-syrian-boy-aylan-kurdi/

A “refugee crisis” is something far away and remote.  Kenya.  Bangladesh.  Syria.

Foreign.  Easily ignored.

But this.  This is something different.

This is a child.

A child whose death has given a face to the millions of other children and adults around the world who are fleeing natural disasters and famine and war.

A child posed as if sleeping, no different than any other toddler who has ever lived.

But not sleeping.

I mean, what else can you say about our pale blue dot humanity that lives by imaginary borders and bureaucratic rules and ancient superstitions?

What else can you say indeed?

Maybe in the spirit of “Think Global and Act Local”, I’ll share a story from my library…

We have an elderly gentleman who comes in regularly.  He is from Africa and lived in a Kenyan refugee camp before making his way to Canada a decade ago.  I’ve helped him at various times with using the computer and applying for jobs and so on.

I do that for any patron who asks but as I’ve gotten to know him a bit, I started to feel a special connection to this man.  And the strangest thing is that part of the reason I feel that connection is because he – African, skinny, grey-haired, missing teeth – reminds me of my grandfather.

Like I said, it’s the strangest thing but there’s something about how he carries himself, how he speaks, even how he looks (er, minus some extra pigmentation of course) that reminds me of my Grandpa Wally.

And when I think about this on a day like today, I realise that the connection I’m feeling isn’t really about my grandfather.  On some bigger level, I hope it’s because I’m recognizing a common humanity between these two elderly men separated by continents and decades and circumstances who share a single connection.  No, not me – they both share the connection that all humans have – wanting the best life possible for ourselves and our children.

Now I’m not saying I’m some unique hero for recognizing that everyone on earth wants this (and deserves it.)  Or that part of how you get there is when we all try to treat everyone as equal – whether they’re an African refugee, a retired farmer from the Canadian prairie or a toddler crossing a gigantic sea with his parents, trying to find a better life.

It also makes me think how far we still have to go as a planet to try to treat everyone – no matter their birthplace or circumstances or skin colour with kindness and dignity and love.

And it makes me sad – sadder even than the picture of the boy on the beach – to think about how unlikely it is we’ll ever advance enough to get there.

Sasha Sleeping

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