(Warning: This article contains things that may be emotionally triggering for some)
Today I saw Aylan.
I didn’t mean too. There he was. In my news feed. His lifeless, three year old body. Laying, washed up on the Turkish shoreline. Still fully dressed. He looked like he was sleeping. As if he were one of my own precious boys.
I looked at the unbearable photos. Ones from his life. Ones from his death. Read his story. Between sobs. Between the snot and tears. I tried to get the complete picture. Of the others who have died. The countless others. These helpless refugees. Then I closed my computer. And wept.
I’m on vacation. I should be enjoying myself. Relaxing. This kind of time is rare for me. And critical. And because of issues with anxiety and depression and a past of addiction and alcoholism, I am encouraged by my therapist and loved ones to avoid things that may be too traumatic. I have a tendency to empathize too closely. Carry the burden as if it were my own. When I can barely carry the weight of my own life. And today I let that guard down.
Today, I see you, Aylan. I see you and I did not look away. And my heart is broken.
His mother and four year old brother also died in those waters as his family fled Syria in hopes of finding a new, safer life in Canada. It was never meant to be. Instead, the western world has chosen to drag their feet. And now Aylan is dead. He is part of a massive exodus of refugees from the middle east. His father told CNN, "I don't want anything else from this world. Everything I was dreaming of is gone. I want to bury my children and sit beside them until I die.” Let that sit for a moment.
And this is why pain matters. Human suffering. This is why we shouldn't look away. Why the outrage over people in dire circumstance, in need of rescue, should not simply be “their problem.” When the western world closes itself off. Creates an us versus them mentality.
When did we get so entitled and self absorbed that this would not move us to action? When defending borders to keep out the hostile few means not letting in the dying? The tired, the poor, the huddled masses? When a parent would choose the perils of the ocean over the safety of solid ground for his family, and yet we tell him no. Turn him away. Not the terrorists. Not the people who perpetrate evil. Not the darkness of this world. Us. I mean, the ones who can help. Who have resource. Have ability. Have aide. We turn our back. There is something inherently wrong.
What has happened to humanity?
Where is the outcry of the church? Not the buildings. Not the pastors. I mean the community. The 2 billion believers on the planet.
I hear it loudly regarding guns, abortion, gay marriage.
What happened to, "For I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat. I was thirsty, and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." (Matthew 25:35)
What happened to, "Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows." (Isaiah 1:17)
What happened to, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." (Matthew 25:40)
Where is the action?
Because I see you, Aylan. I see you and I will not look away. Because you were one of us. And we failed you.
There is room. There is resource. There is enough.
And I may be an idealist. I know that. It’s probably where over half my issues in life stem from. I think things should be a certain way and when they are not, my mind and my heart just cannot handle it. And maybe that is my problem.
Or maybe the problem is with the world.
That we have somehow numbed ourselves to tragedy. To devastation. The images have become so prevalent that the impact they may have once had no longer exists. We are not moved. Slogans like, "Never again" from World War II are rendered meaningless. Besides, we’ve seen worse in the movies.
So we get back to our $7 coffees. Our $600 phones. Our $300 handbags. And in that moment we are lost. Because we have entered the territory of, "Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." (Matthew 25:45)
Because the minute we are not shattered to the core, into action, by the death of an Aylan or others like him, we have lost our capacity to empathize and to be decent human beings. The moment we can look away and simply carry on with our lives, just status quo, we have lost sight of compassion. Of love. Of Jesus. And God forgive us.
So I see you, Aylan. And I am so sorry. I am going to try and do better. I am going to put down my coffee. Put down my phone. I'm going to start somewhere. Do something. Because I see you. And now I'm responsible.
*If you are interested in learning more about refugees or human trafficking, I am attaching some links here to get you started. Whether it’s time volunteering, donating money to an organization or cause, or something more, we all have a part to play.