Around the world there are refugees living out stories of survival, of loss, of desperation and of fear—my mind and my writer’s heart wrap themselves around these subjects.
My writer’s heart is bleeding and yet, at the same time, it seems to have bled itself dry.
I don’t have words.
What I have is pictures. Pictures that fly across my mind, tearing my words to shreds and leaving empathy in their wake.
And still—my empathy falls short.
I know what it is like to be afraid for my children, but only a tiny bit afraid compared to the fear I see on the faces of refugees. I know what it is to be confused, but only a tiny bit confused compared to the shocked confusion I see on the faces of the refugees. I know what it is to be overwhelmed, exhausted, hungry and thirsty—but only when I was overwhelmed, exhausted, hungry and thirsty after what I now consider to be a ridiculously self-imposed, self-aggrandizing, 20 mile training run or hike down the Grand Canyon.
I know what it is like to be cold, but never what it is like to be cold with nothing to wrap around me take away the cold. What it is like to be standing in the rain, but only when there was an umbrella or a car or a building nearby. I know what a temporary toilet smells like when it is clean and has been rolled in for the runners, not what it smells like or looks like or is like when it is one of only six temporary toilets for over 600 people.
What I don’t know is how they do it?
How do they not crumple and fall to the ground on the spot? How do they keep going, on foot, or in busses, or in the cars of strangers? How do they keep going—to where? To some place else. To some place—that place, that other place—that doesn’t have war and bombs and death at every turn.
What I don’t know is that kind of desperation.
I am astonished by the refugees. What keeps them moving, walking, eating, breathing? I have never been that desperate.
I have always had a pillow under my head.
I volunteer by providing editing services to one of the organizations trying to help the refugees in their plight. I get e-mails from native Hungarian speakers who have translated a press release from Hungarian into English and my role is to copy edit the English for grammar, diction and corrections. The e-mails come to me at all hours and I try to provide a 20 minute turn around.
It’s the least I can do when I read about how the Hungarian government is planning on sending the refugees back (to where? to what?) about how while there are hundreds upon thousands of people responding to the crises with open hearts and open hands and open larders of food there are also those who hurl rocks and hatred, there are also police who sling their clubs and shoot their tear gas—and there was even a news photographer who stuck her foot out into the stomach of a running child and who tripped others in a petty attempt to make them fall.
Even in the face of good, there is another face.
Even in the face of need, there is the face of hatred.
Even while I and hundreds of thousands like me are feeling a knot of compassion in our stomachs, there are those who wear a thick cloak of fear and hatred. Not because they are afraid of the refugees per se. But because they are afraid of feeling that same knot of compassion, they are afraid of hurting and so they feel hatred instead. They think it doesn’t hurt as much.
I saw a quote from a Buddhist monk. It said that hatred is a seed and that fear is a seed and that when we plant those seeds, they grow crops for generations to come.
My prayer is that the seeds of love and support and compassion that are being planted by the volunteers in Hungary today will force out those other seeds. My prayer is that the refugees who are lost and wandering and homeless now will find a place to land, a place of comfort and of peace and that the seeds of love that have been planted in them will grow and love will become the crop that is harvested in generations to come.
For it is that seed—the seed of love—that fuels ,what is in the end, the most powerful of all fuels. The fuel that keeps the refugees going—the only fuel they have left.
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock