I ran across a story called Where the Children Sleep on a photo project by Magnus Wennman. It is gut-wrenching, tear-inducing, and made my heart heavy.
Seeing these photos made me realize just how much privilege we truly have.
The first photo is a 5-year-old girl, her pigtails wrapped with ribbon, striped socks peeking out from below her blanket. You could likely come across a similar photo from a friend in your Facebook newsfeed. The only difference? This girl’s asleep in the freezing woods along the border of Hungary.
The second photo is of a 1.5-year-old little boy, and his long eyelashes remind me of my son’s. His face is so peaceful. This little soul has never known a home without war around him. They used water cannons and tear gas on his camp the day after the photo, and I can’t help but wonder if he’s okay.
Scroll more, read more, the tears flow. A 9-year-old with Polio…a preventable disease here, one we’d never think twice about. She can’t move much now; they can’t afford medication to treat her.
A 5-year-old, terrified of pillows because she associates them with air raids that happened in her hometown at night. Air raids? Have you ever had so much as a passing thought of the possibility of air raids in your town?
Two young girls, puffy coats and rain boots, but they are asleep on cardboard. Protected by only their father, because a grenade killed their mother and brother. They are afraid of the “bad boys.”
Another 5-year-old, alone in a hospital after he was injured by a car bomb. A car bomb that killed his mother as he held her hand. Can you even fathom that pain? One second you’re holding your mother’s hand, and the next she’s gone.
A 20-month-old, born as a refugee. A baby who has never had toys, never had any of the things we take for granted for my son. A 20-month-old who doesn’t even speak. Will he ever make it to saying his first words? Will his life be taken, by war, by hate, by the elements, before he can even say “mama?”
A 9-year-old who witnessed a stillborn baby thrown from a refugee boat. I know mothers who have given birth to sleeping babies. Can you imagine the anguish of having your child, your baby, tossed overboard because there just are no other options? Can you imagine seeing that as a 9-year-old child? How do you recover from that? How do you stop seeing that over and over?
I complain about my life, we all do. But in reality, we have it good…better than good, we have it great. Yes, I struggled to build my family, but they are here. They are safe. I have a crib that’s never been slept in because my son curls into my arms at night, nestled into the safest place he knows.
How do we ever help those children feel safe again?
How can we sit here in our oasis of safety, our 3-bedroom, 2-bath subdivison paradise, and deny help to those who need it? How can we sleep at night, in warm beds and on cool pillows after a hot shower and a full meal, and know they are there and not want to help?
You take a look at your closet and complain you have nothing to wear, but what would you grab if you had to flee your home? You complain there is nothing to eat, when really you mean there is nothing you want to eat, or nothing close to eat. But have you ever been without food? For days? For weeks?
What would you do if tomorrow, this was you? Your home blown to rubble, your company folded and gone, nothing but the clothes on your back and your family in your arms. Where would you go if the entire country was collapsing around you? Would you run for the border? North, to Canada? South, to Mexico? Would you make the trip if every street was demolished by air raids? If the gas stations were empty? Could you walk that far in your discount store flats? Your red-soled pumps? How long would you last if you were literally running for your life, your families’ lives? And tell me, how would you feel when you were met at the border by guards, guns, dogs, and fences, when all you want is safety, a place to sleep, protection for your children, a meal? What would you do if they turned you away? If no one was there to help, if they refused to help?
The state of the world makes my heart ache. It’s not the war that will define us; it’s our response to those in need.