Yesterday, walking home from school, we talked about snapping fingers.
I was walking with my daughter, pushing my cranky baby in the stroller. Mohammed (not his real name) walked home with us, his toothy grin peeking out at every opportunity. He was wearing a necklace he made himself, he had skinny ten-year-old legs, he was wearing an oversized sweater. I thought hard about what we could talk about on the ten minute walk home, because Mohammed doesn't speak much English. So we talked about snapping fingers (a conversation of utmost important to my six year old, who is desperately trying to learn). Mohammed showed us his skills, and they were impressive. Not only could he snap his fingers, he could also whistle like it was his job, and he also knew how to do this amazing slap-snap thing. I'm not sure what it's called, but my younger sister (who has traveled the world) can also do it. You shake your hand really fast and sort of slam your fingers together? I'm not describing it correctly, but it is amazing to watch, and something a sad American like myself could never attempt.
This kept us busy the entire walk home. There was so much I wanted to ask Mohammed about, but I kept it to the basics: how is your mother, how are your sisters, how is your brother? But what I really wanted to ask is: how is everyone else?
Mohammed is from Syria. I don't know his whole story. I actually don't know any of it. I visit with his family from time to time, but we only have google translate to help us, so we stick to pleasantries and baked goods. He has been here for five months now. I hope life gets easier for him.
Mohammed is who I think of when I hear reports about what is happening in Aleppo. A few days ago I read that the city was 10 days out from starvation. I myself had just had the third of my three thanksgiving meals. I was satiated and satisfied, until I heard that news. There is no pretending this away. This great suffering, happening half the world away, it hits me so hard. The children of Aleppo are my neighbors. They are Mohammed, walking home from school and trying to make my baby giggle.
Please don't look away just because we have that ability. Please take a moment out of your day today to lament and cry out to God to intervene on behalf of our precious neighbors in Syria. Ask for prophetic imagination for next steps forward. How can we, in the here and now, start to see the seeds of an equitable kingdom grow? Are there Syrian refugees in your city? At your school? Had your state decided to not accept them? Who can you petition, who can you already support?
You can go here and see what Ann Voskamp has put together in response to the moral crisis of Aleppo. Sign the letter. Ask your church to pray for Aleppo this Sunday. Gather people together. Let your lament spill out. Talk to your children about the realities of life in Aleppo, the reality that their world is not the same as so many others. Pray and plead and act and hope. And in your spirit, open your doors a little wider to whatever your next step might be. Stand #withaleppo.
I keep searching the Bible but I have yet to see where it says to focus on your own family, to raise good and holy children, to protect them from all the bad things in the world. Instead I see it say that the whole heart of God is summed up in loving our neighbors as ourselves; in choosing to live with the incredulous belief that we are equally worthy of justice and peace. Neighbor-love is the good news of Jesus; it is good news for all of us, not just our own individual little souls. But neighbor-love is also brutal, especially in times when our neighbors are suffering so greatly.
Lord, teach us to do what is impossible. Teach us to love our neighbors as much as we love our comfort and ignorance and safety and security. Holy Spirit, do what you do, and replace our own desires with better ones.