The refugee situation – a story to think about

A story of compassion and greed, for people concerned about the refugee situation 2016

refugee-story001The child looked around her. She knew no one at all. Her brother has disappeared the previous day. He said he was going to look for water but never came back. She lay curled up on some rags she had found. Her body was tightly wound into a ball to keep warm. Hunger gnawed at her belly. Her mind was confused, no single thought formed properly. Emotions flooded through her. Shaking and trembling with cold, hunger and fear, she hid her face from the world. No one seemed to be interested anyway. She heard shouts and cries, the sounds of rough men and frightened women and children.

She tried to reconstruct the past she knew, that past which had been shattered by bombs and blood and death. She tried to dream herself back into the life that she had so recently been living…

Her mother cooked at the stove. The kitchen was bright and cheerful, colourful cloth draped the walls. She sat on her father’s knee and stroked his beard. Her elder brother was in the courtyard, she could hear his laughter as he played with his friends. Then suddenly fear came to stay. Planes high above, the sounds of explosions and screams, people running and nowhere to go.

‘What shall we do, my husband?’ asked her mother.

‘We shall wait, there is no place any safer than here,’ said her father.

They gathered in the doorway and watched huge clouds of dust rising in the distance. Her brother flew indoors, aghast and horrified by the noise.

A few minutes later the child found herself on the floor. The air was so thick with dust she could not see across the room. She reached out and felt the body of her father lying beside her, lifeless. Her mother too lay beside the stove, the small flames still sputtered, lighting the dust which gathered on every surface and on the bodies of her parents. She crawled across the room thinking it might be safer to stay low. Under the table cowered her brother, speechless and in shock. She wrapped her arms around him and they remained under the table until after what seemed like a very long time, the bombings stopped.

Then shouts and cries filled the air, wails of sorrow and loss. Someone shouted their father’s name. The man pushed into the ruined kitchen, it was the neighbour, the girl gave a cry.

They were all shepherded out of the ruined houses. She held tightly to her brother’s hand. He couldn’t seem to be able to speak.

There on the rags, curled up, starving and thirsty she couldn’t recall the rest. She didn’t want to. She hoped to somehow get back in time and choose a better way forward, but young as she was she knew that it would not be possible.

refugee-story001

She felt a hand on her shoulder, it was gentle and kind like a mother’s hand. A young woman in clean clothing and with a badge in the shape of a Red Cross peered at her. She spoke words that were unfamiliar to her and offered her a bottle of water. Painfully the girl uncurled herself and taking the water drank deeply.

The Red Cross women held her hand and helped her to stand. She felt so weak she could hardly put one foot in front of the other. She was carried to a lorry where a number of other children waited. They all had a bottle of water and a small loaf of bread. Most were silent, quietly nibbling their bread, their eyes hollow. She pushed the loaf they gave her under her clothes. She couldn’t eat.

At a camp the children were put into tents, boys in boys tents, girls with girls. The older girls helped the younger ones to get what they needed – blankets, water and food.

After a second long journey in a lorry they found themselves in a place where houses were still standing, where people were very poor but friendly, although they spoke a different tongue. She was taken in by a family which already had four children. There was a heavy stone in her heart, which seemed to get heavier each time she thought of her parents and her brother. She could tell no one about how she was feeling as her words were not understood.

Meanwhile in the West people shook their heads in sorrow. A few signed cheques to help those in trouble. A few gathered up unwanted clothes and sent them off in lorries to Syria. A small number of brave, adventurous souls went to help in the camps, but most people did nothing.

Some recalled the two World Wars when refugees were accepted, accommodated and cared for. But somehow ‘War Time’ was different. Then everyone had a personal investment in it. Families had members who were soldiers; many knew people who had lost their lives. Sacrifices were made and expected of everyone. The whole of Europe and most of the rest of the world was involved. People could empathise with the loss and sacrifice.

Attitudes are different now. People have grown fat and rich and are afraid of giving up even a tiny bit of their wealth or their freedom to do exactly what they want to do for themselves. They think that they are not involved in this war in the Middle East. They think they can shut it out, shut the borders, close their eyes to it, refuse to recognise the suffering. Let other people in other countries, which happen to be closer but are not involved in the war, let them take the refugees. It doesn’t seem to matter to the West that many of these countries are very poor already, they are expected to share what little they do have with all the suffering and dispossessed peoples.

Many people in countries in the West seems to be losing the ability to be generous and compassionate and instead focus on keeping what they have, come what may. It seems that the more they have the less they want to give. Is this the equality that is spoken about so loudly? It is time for a rethink.

Questions:

How do you see refugees?  Are they guilty and need to be punished for being homeless? Looking back at your family history, or your friends’ families, how many of them have been persecuted for their race, religion, colour or nationality?  Who helped them to get through and become happy and productive citizens?

Does your heart go out to refugees when you hear about their suffering?

Do you feel you would like to do something but cannot think how you could make a difference?

How do your friends feel about the situation, are they selfish or generous?  

Does anyone express an opinion or do they just keep quiet and hope not to become involved?

Could you afford to give something to the Red Cross or similar organisation that you trust to help these people.

Could you raise some funds by holding an event, large or small, to show solidarity with those who are suffering?  Is anyone in your town involved in this?  How can you find out?

You could let me know how you get on….

The Fight Within- a woman discovers she has cancer. Therapeutic short story.

The Fight Within.

A requested story for a friend of HT

 

Mary couldn’t sleep. It was still dark outside, no sounds came through her closed curtains ; the world had not yet stirred. Mary’s mind was in turmoil. Now she knew for sure what she had suspected for some weeks. It was cancer. The wait after the test over a weekend had felt like forever. She had thought over her entire life remembering all the good bits and the bad, wondering if something she had done could have created this lump in her body.

Mary’s family were not yet fully grown, they still needed their mother. They were learning to become independent, but she felt they still needed a lot of support. Her husband Robert would be all right. Always independent, doing his own thing, he wouldn’t suffer if she went , she thought. Her life had not been quite what she had hoped for so far. She was more of a reactor then an instigator. Life had happened to her rather than she had made it happen. She had not been ambitious and had not made demands on her family. Rather the opposite was true, they had made demands on her and she had complied. What should a mother do other than look after her kids? She fetched and carried them , she gathered up their dirty washing strewn on the floor and dealt with it. She cooked their favourite meals and often felt they might show more consideration and gratitude. She was tired of nagging them; it seemed easier just to do everything herself. She had not insisted that they thanked her for the meals she carefully prepared for them or for keeping the home nice. They were oblivious to her need for recognition and she wasn’t about to tell them how she felt.

Mary thought about how she would do things differently if she survived this. She told herself that the statistics were good these days. Doctors were much more on top of cancer. Most people survived it. Strangely, the idea of telling her family that she wanted more help and appreciation was more daunting to her than telling them that she had cancer. It almost felt like a weakness in her, yet she knew it was not. Her weakness had been in letting them all do exactly what they wanted, without insisting on some return, which would make her life easier and more pleasant. They were not bad kids, they were just selfish and oblivious to a different and better way to behave. It had been her duty and her husband’s to guide the children and they had not. Her husband had grown used to her saying ‘Oh, I don’t mind’, and it had suited him to believe her. He did not take his fair share of parental duties, but as she did not complain, he continued to ignore the situation.

The small knot of resentment had grown and now she had cancer. She had heard that stress can cause all sorts of ills, including cancer, and suddenly she wondered if her bitterness was showing up in her body. It was time to shake up her life. She needed new goals and she needed help to achieve them. The only person who could change things for her was herself. She saw it now. Taking the line of least resistance was not an option now. She made a list of things that would have to change, it was not a long list, but it was a very important one.

Mary stuck the list on the fridge door with a magnet and went back to bed and slept. The following day was a Sunday. Normally she would be the one to get up and make the breakfast. On this day she slept on. At 10 o’clock her husband appeared with tray, on it was a pot of tea and some toast with butter and marmalade. He looked sheepish and embarrassed.

‘Oh, thank you Robert. I thought you were off to golf this morning.’ she said.

Mary’s son and daughter appeared at the door. They looked upset and worried . ‘Hello Mum,’ was all they could say.

Robert reached into into his back pocket and took out Mary’s fridge list. He put it on the tray, Mary noticed ticks on all the items, they looked like marks of agreement. The family had at last come together and had seen what needed to be done for their mum.

‘I’m going to fight it,’ said Mary, ‘but I don’t want to have to fight you too. Thanks for the ticks. Promise me that you’ll remember to go along with it? It is fair enough, isn’t it? All I want to do is to be able to train as…. an astronaut. …That’s not too much to ask, is it? ‘

Her smile told them they were forgiven and she hoped that all their tears were a promise of the help and support she needed.