November 17, 2015

Our Shared World -- Fear and Hope

We find ourselves, again, at the intersection of fear and hope. The horrific violence in Paris on November 13 played out in real time through news coverage and social media shook us to our core, as many could identify with random sense of violence while going about one's day to day life. Human nature is to protect our families and our tribes, but who are our families and tribes in this day and age of global connection? 

Only two months ago, "we" rose up in horror at the sight of Aylan Kurdi, the three year old Syrian boy whose body washed up on the Turkish beach, as his refugee family was trying to escape the horrors of a war torn country. We are now confronted with many political voices refusing to offer sanctuary to families such as Aylan Kurdi's due to the violent assault on Paris we witnessed last week. But by viewing the world as "us" and "them" aren't we also losing a bit of humanity by separating ourselves from the image of Aylan and replacing it with an image of a terrorist. 

I don't know what the answer is, but I hope that as we each struggle with finding resilience in this horrific event we don't lose sight of the hope that exists by being blinded with fear. We live in a shared world, one in which I choose to give more energy to hope versus fear. It is with this intent that I share with you the poetry of Naomi Shihab Nye, Gate A-4

Marmool Cookies

Gate A-4

After learning my flight was detained 4 hours,
I heard the announcement:
If anyone in the vicinity of gate 4-A understands any Arabic,
please come to the gate immediately.

Well—one pauses these days. Gate 4-A was my own gate. I went there.
An older woman in full traditional Palestinian dress,
just like my grandma wore, was crumpled to the floor, wailing loudly.

Help, said the flight service person. Talk to her. What is her
problem? We told her the flight was going to be four hours late and she
did this.
I put my arm around her and spoke to her haltingly.Shu dow-a, shu- biduck habibti, stani stani schway, min fadlick,Sho bit se-wee?

The minute she heard any words she knew—however poorly used—
she stopped crying.

She thought our flight had been canceled entirely.
She needed to be in El Paso for some major medical treatment the
following day. I said no, no, we’re fine, you’ll get there, just late,
Who is picking you up? Let’s call him and tell him.

We called her son and I spoke with him in English.
I told him I would stay with his mother till we got on the plane and
would ride next to her—Southwest.

She talked to him. Then we called her other sons just for the fun of it.
Then we called my dad and he and she spoke for a while in Arabic and
Found out of course they had ten shared friends.

Then I thought just for the heck of it why not call some Palestinian
poets I know and let them chat with her. This all took up about 2 hours.

She was laughing a lot by then. Telling about her life. Answering

She had pulled a sack of homemade mamool cookies—little powdered
sugar crumbly mounds stuffed with dates and nuts—out of her bag—
And was offering them to all the women at the gate.

To my amazement, not a single woman declined one. It was like a

The traveler from Argentina, the traveler from California,
the lovely woman from Laredo—we were all covered with the same
powdered sugar. And smiling. There are no better cookies.

And then the airline broke out the free beverages from huge coolers—
non-alcoholic—and the two little girls for our flight, one African
American, one Mexican American—ran around serving us all apple juice
And lemonade and they were covered with powdered sugar too.

And I noticed my new best friend—by now we were holding hands—
had a potted plant poking out of her bag, some medicinal thing,
with green furry leaves. Such an old country traveling tradition. Always
carry a plant. Always stay rooted to somewhere.

And I looked around that gate of late and weary ones and thought,
this is the world I want to live in. The shared world.

Not a single person in this gate—once the crying of confusion stopped
—has seemed apprehensive about any other person.
They took the cookies. I wanted to hug all those other women too.

This can still happen anywhere.
Not everything is lost.

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