A child is a child is a child is a child a child.
Sweet Omran, you are the face of war today. And I see you. Being pulled from the rubble. Sitting in shock and confusion. Your empty stare. And I want you to know that I am fully present in this moment. Instead of hopelessness, there is a fire in my belly that was started a year ago and it continues to grow.
I was going to wait to post this until September 2nd. In honor of Alan. But now I see you, Omran. It’s almost been a year since I first saw his lifeless body laying on a Turkish shoreline. A baby, really, like my own. Since he grabbed a piece of my heart that I will never get back. Nor do I want to. Because he has taught me so much.
That we are the same.
Regardless of what the world might say; culture, religion, politics. At the end of the day, we are all inevitably connected. Responsible for one another. The human race. So when you hurt, I hurt. When you bleed, I bleed. And when Alan died, a part of me woke up.
There is an emptiness in the world where his beautiful soul used to reside. But I just wanted you to know that I kept my promise. I haven’t forgotten.
Where once there was complacency, I now write and speak out. Where once there was ignorance, I now ask questions. Where once there was denial, I now keep eyes, ears and an overly tender heart open.
I have not let his death harden me. Numb me to the pain in the world. Sterilize me from how a person should respond each and every time they see tragedy. Witness the fallout of war. I have not allowed the hate of this world to immobilize me. Or keep me locked away in a place of fear. Of anger.
He changed me.
Because of him, I love harder. I listen more. Because of him I am stronger.
The trumpet sounds and I heed it’s call. I take to the battleground. But the war that I fight is not against people. It is against a darkness that starts small and then grows like a cancer. That devil of fear. Of which I have been chief of sinners. My life was mired in miseducation and self loathing before this. But I broke the mold.
I believed I could change, and I did.
I have chosen to drag my life out of the dark. Out of the shadows. In full transparency. To be better in every possible way that I can. And I find that there is less room for the other things that used to corrupt my life. I lie, gossip, judge, hate and fear so much less. Even material things. I have sold or gotten rid of a lot of the “stuff” that pollutes our time. That requires maintenance. So that maybe just maybe, I can become someone else’s change. All of the people that have given up or still reside in darkness.
Like a tiny pebble hitting the water, I wait for the ripple effect of this choice.
Because I saw Alan. And it broke me. In a way that I never want to be fixed. He gave me the courage I needed to see that while I may not be able to change the world, I can certainly start with myself. And that has made me feel powerful, necessary, and effective. In an especially hopeless time. Because this world desperately needs change.
We need to regain the ability to empathize. To compromise. Yes, compromise. Otherwise there will never be any peace. Not in our world, our countries, our states, our homes, our lives. In our fragile minds.
I live my life with the white flag in full view of all who approach. My heart and my home is a safe place. Places where I can and do love without condition. Because I am changed.
Republican or Democrat, CEO or homeless, Black or White, Christian or Muslim, LGBT or straight, the list goes on. All are welcome at my table.
I am not naive. I know how I look and sound to the world. And I don’t care. Because this is exactly what the world needs more of. More softness. More vulnerability. More love. To balance out the hate and the darkness. So that a year from now I am not writing another letter to another small boy from Syria.
These days I find myself praying for the worst that this world has to offer. The thief. The rapist. The murderer. The terrorist. Yes, I pray for the members of ISIS. Because when I saw Alan's little body, and now yours, Omran, I imagine what kind of horror, pain and manipulation must be taking place to steal the soul of a child and turn him into a terrorist. Once young, vulnerable, innocent. Just like you. Like me. What does it take to change someone into a person they were never intended to be? What is this thing that steals our purpose? Our hope?
And I will not submit.
So if we are all the same, at least in the beginning, as children, then my promise to love, listen and understand unconditionally must blanket all. Every child. Even the budding terrorist. To try and see the entire picture. The whole of a persons life. Not just who they are now, but how they became.
How I became. Became a liar. A thief. A drug addict. An alcoholic. A deceitful, sorry mess of a human being. And how I found my way back.
I have to believe that there is always a way back from the depths. From our mistakes. From our terrible choices. From the circumstances that steal, piece by piece, all that we are so that there is nothing left resembling a human being.
So what can we do? Love. Unconditionally. Start small. First with yourself, then the people around you. But if it's unconditional, it must apply to all. Even the enemy. Love. Love more. Love big. Love loud. Let it's ripple begin to move. Watch it spread. And watch as love covers. Covers over the evil and the dark. Because love is the only thing that can put a dent in the dark. Awaken the light. If we would all just love a little more. Imagine.
So it’s been a year, and I have not forgotten. I said that I would put down my coffee, turn off my phone, get up and start to do more. And I have done just that.
It is because of your sacrifice, children, that I am made new. That I have dream. That I hope without borders.