Below is a letter I wrote in August 2016. It was in response to the video of Omran Daqneesh being rescued from him bombed home in Aleppo, Syria.
I have learned much since writing this letter. I have spoken with many people all over the world. I have befriended Syrian Refugees and spoken with aid workers and discussed important ideas.
I have also realized that I have made errors in my emotional response that have offended some and hurt others. Those I have offended toldme, "I know your heart is in the right place but . . ."
What I didn't understand was much hurt has been done by those trying to do what they perceive as the "right" thing but are uninformed and lack training and wisdom.
I am leaving this letter online as a reminder to myself that while I was well-intentioned with a good heart I need to know and understand myself, the context of situations, and don't come at the world with a "God Complex" of thinking I am going to save the world. This "I have what they need" approach can quickly go awry.
I ask forgiveness of anyone I have offended. I am trying to learn. I want to help.
In addition I also ask for patience, courage, and compassion from those who are well trained and educated that encounter people like me.
I ask that you help us to become wise, thoughtful, and helpful rather than judge us. We do have good hearts. We want to help. Lead us toward resources and ideas that can educate and arm us to go inward to understand our motives and outward to be able to pair our emotions with our rational minds to do the most good and be the most helpful.
A Letter To The Father of Omran Daqneesh
You have been chosen. It may have been fate, God, or by chance but you have been chosen. I am a father like you. I have four children like you. When I saw Omran’s face flash across my computer screen on my lunch break my life changed forever. I broke down weeping, body heaving, for this stunned little child – your son. I would finally collect myself then breakdown again. I don’t know you. I don’t know your name. I don’t know if you are a good man or someone prone to violent outbursts or possess character flaws that make you human like the rest of us. None of that matters anymore. What matters now is what you do with this opportunity. You, or more accurately your son, have been gifted in an instant with what so many in my country strive for their entire life: celebrity. Most people seek fame for power and money. You were not seeking notoriety and found it in the most horrific way: tragedy. Although I am certain you would never have sought out this gift/burden in this way it is now yours. With this rare gift of instant worldwide fame you, through your son, you have important choices in front of you that will radically influence your life, the life of your family and generations of your family to come. Through the portal hell you are being forced to endure, you have been given a window of opportunity to become a bridge to help heal yourself, your family, and in part, the world. The grief and horror that your son and your family suffered has now traumatized millions. News anchors have broken down on live television, tears have flowed from the masses. We can’t bear to look into your son’s eyes but we must. Now, we are traumatized along with you. Some may find the idea of comparing our tragedy to yours incomprehensibly myopic and insulting but suffering, whether big or small, is still suffering. It is not necessary to get out the measuring stick to gauge whose is worse. After seeing the video of your son I immediately thought of my children and wanted to watch it with them. I then paused thinking it may scar them psychologically or frighten them. I debated the idea for some time. When I came home from work my 13-year-old casually asked how I was doing. “Devastated,” I said. She cocked her head sideways and asked me what was wrong. “You’ll see,” I told her. Before dinner I took out my laptop and showed my family the video. As I suspected there was stunned silence followed by sobbing and tears. My sweet 11-year-old daughter was emotionally crushed. My 8-year-old was in shock, “Can we not talk about this anymore?” he pleaded. My four year old observed, “That boy is not me.” “Why not,” I asked. “Because he has blood on his face,” my son said. I know what it feels like to be just one man. I am just one man. What can I do? What can you do? Your family is caught in the midst of a terrifying civil war. I can assure you that if you lean into the world at this moment, the world will lean into you. Millions are waiting to help. You and your family can be the champions of the untold stories of your brothers and sisters in your country. We need you because we need to put our grief to work. We need something to do. We all need to feel like our life matters and we can make a difference. We need to know where to donate money that will truly help people in need. We need to know where to go and how we can contribute our efforts to help alleviate the suffering of those in terrible situations such as yours. We need you to be the bridge that connects us to those in your country that we could never know and never meet. I am asking you, begging you, pleading with you please give us a way to help heal our trauma. We all want to act with you, for you. We all want to help but feel powerless and overwhelmed. We need to find ways to take action. We must do something. In my wildest imagination I see you traveling the world speaking in synagogues, churches, stadiums, homes, and community centers. I imagine you and your family standing next to a poster of your son in the back of that ambulance. I imagine you sharing with us your vision of the future for your country and how you want to help your country recover and heal. The world has never been more connected to Syria and the suffering going on right now because of your son. Let us be ambassadors for your son, for you, for your family and your cause. Let us combine who we are and who we know with your family and the desperate needs of your nation. I have been told that there is no way in or out of Aleppo at this moment. Those left are the poor and sick who have nowhere to go. I acknowledge the likelihood of you ever getting this letter is one in a million. But maybe, just maybe, one day if you get this letter it may provide you hope knowing that people around the world are heartbroken for you and your family because of your son. We now "know" your family. We have glimpsed for a few seconds the horror you and your family live in every day and it strikes terror in our hearts. The impossibility of your circumstances is beyond anything we can fathom. May your tragedy be a springboard to take action. As we fumble toward helping let us remember Mother Teresa's words, "We cannot do great things, we can only do small things with great love." We all have something to contribute. I am an American with access to people with money and/or power and/or knowledge. You have a tragic story of hope. Through your son you have a commodity that money cannot buy. From one father to another please let me be an ambassador for you, your family, your country, the silent masses that will never be given the opportunity for the world to hear their stories. You can give a voice to their silent voices. You, your wife, your sons, your daughters can bring healing to the world. So I say one again: you have been chosen. Your family’s lives spared at least for the moment. We are all desperate to help you. We need a voice. Your voice. Your wife’s voice. Your children’s voice. I hope one day to embrace you and share a cup of tea with you. I hope one day to hold your son in my arms. I hope one day to see our children playing together. I am grateful Omran’s life was spared but I am still afraid. I can only assure you that now, because of your son, the world is holding its breath for you. You can make a difference. You can affect change. You now have power and you have been chosen.
Reb Buxton I Psychotherapist I (615) 283-0880 I 810 Dominican Drive Nashville, TN 37228