Sunday, November 1, 2015

Stone Soup for Syrian Refugees

Life jackets abandoned by refugees arriving in Greece
Iakovos Hatzistavrou/AFP/Getty Images)
As I snuggle warm in my bed while a gentle rain falls outside, the words I read take me to a place torn between the storms of chaos and insanity. It is a place I only read about while real people, young and old, strong and weak, educated and not, experience the free fall of life with no safety net.

Hardship, exhaustion, illness and death surround their journey away from the crumbling reality of a government gone mad, as millions of people leave their homes with what little they can carry, risking everything to find safety. Set adrift in overcrowded captain-less rubber boats, equipped with rattletrap motors fighting a treacherous sea, wearing cheaply made life vests held together by spit, desperation drives them into the generosity, as well as the cruelty, of strangers.

All of this began after Syria experienced a devastating drought that dragged on for four years, killing 85% of the country’s livestock and forcing almost half the population to leave their homes. The government devolved into anarchy where warring factions have killed over 250,000 people while the official leadership is promoting "Summer in Syria," billing it as a destination resort.

A new friend writes of self-reliance but as I read this I have to think that it’s easy to talk of self-reliance when the world around us is stable and sane (well, the Donald’s hair not withstanding), but what would we do if we were faced with the type of catastrophe that hit Syria? What if all of our systems collapsed? What would happen if suddenly 150 million of us were homeless, unemployed, desperate. Would we just say, “Buck up, Bub … take responsibility for yourself?"

As much as we would all like to be self-reliant, we’re not, and we haven’t been since we started hunting in groups to avoid starving. It reminds me of the “stone soup” story where everyone in a village was starving until a stranger came to town and offered to make soup with his magic stone. As he boiled his stone in a big pot on the town square, one by one villagers came and offered the poor man something for his soup since they knew that one rock would never a soup make. One dropped a potato in the pot, another an onion. One old woman actually had two turnips. Soon there was real soup and the whole town ate hot soup ... together.

Syrian refugees need help. Let’s make stone soup. Here’s one organization that helps: International Rescue Committee.

More about the Syrian crisis:
Syria, the Story of the Conflict:
Syrian Refugees, a Snapshot of the Crisis

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