Catherine Blanchette wrote -
Syrian civilians are evacuating from Aleppo to Idlib. In Idlib, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is providing families with emergency cash to so that they can purchase food, blankets and other essential items. The IRC is also helping coordinate care for survivors, transporting the injured to Turkey for medical treatment, as well as supporting eight health facilities in Idlib to enable them to provide medical care to more than 100,000 people. Additionally, the IRC supports five schools providing an education for 4,000 children and four livelihood centers that help around 5,000 Syrians each month boost their income through skills training, job placements and business start-up grants.
Why IRC? I spent a lot of time researching charities. If I was going to ask you to give, I wanted to feel confident about where our money would go. International Rescue Committee (IRC) is a 4-star rated charity with the goal of "helping people to survive, recover and reclaim control of their future." 92.8% of your gift goes directly to those in need. Founded in 1933 at the suggestion of Albert Einstein, for 83 years, the American branch of International Rescue Committee has been responding to the world's worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster.
Back in 2015, I made a promise to myself and to those in need that I would do something in response to the horrors of the Syrian crisis. I'm finally making good on that promise. This is a small act but I have decided that even a small act is better than a sense of futility and a desire to "do more." So here is my offering today.
I hope that you might help me amplify the power of my effort. Please give as you are able- every bit makes a difference. Below, if you like, is my original promise. I hope you might read it and find encouragement. Peace- Cate
Be the Miracle
Ever since the image of three year-old Aylan Kurdi appeared on my computer screen and made the refugee crisis feel so personal, I have been ruminating on what action I could take to make a difference. For whatever reason, as I dwelled on the question, the biblical story of the loaves and the fishes kept coming to my mind. I think it was because I kept thinking of how little I had to offer and how much I wanted to be able to achieve.
If you’re not familiar with the story, here’s the Cliffs Notes version: Jesus was preaching to a multitude in a remote location. It was getting on towards mealtime and the disciples realized the crowd was getting a bit hangry. But no one had thought to organize Kraft services or food trucks. It was just a lot of people and nothing to eat. A child came forward and offered the little food he had- just a few loaves and a couple fish. Jesus blessed the food, directed the disciples to distribute the food and, miraculously, there ended up being more than enough for the entire multitude.
There was likely no magic involved in the making of this miracle. Jesus didn’t bend the laws of physics to conjure something from nothing. Instead, the example of one inspired the multitude to give what they had, no matter how seemingly insignificant. When everyone gave, there was enough to go around. No one went hungry. And that seems like a miracle.
Recently, it dawned on me that the miracle is more than feeding a multitude.
The miracle is other people.
It is a terrifying prospect to seize that same miracle for ourselves. In this world of distrust, fraud, and greed- where dangers lurk in our neighborhoods and schools, where terrorists bring death and fear- the miracle of peace, the miracle of plenty will come at the hands of other people. To accept this miracle, this gift, we have to empty our own hands. We have to give what we have generously, and we have to stop trying to grasp control of the world around us.
We are constantly deluged with images and stories that tell us to be fearful, vigilant. Our lives are at stake if we leave ourselves vulnerable, or so we are told. Consumerism and greed, hoarding, selfishness- we build safety through possessing things. Condemnation, exclusion, bigotry, prejudice- we think we are less vulnerable when we cut ourselves off from dangerous elements, bad seeds, people who offend or hurt us.
But who among us hasn’t made a misstep and hurt or offended someone? And, what if by building walls around yourself and isolating yourself, you are, in fact, living less? What happens when you lock your door? You lock out the world and you lock yourself in. Imagine a world where you can’t step outside and feel the sun warm your back and feel the cool, crisp breeze lift your spirits?
How naïve, you may think. Socialist. Communist. And yet, think back to the child. You probably know children who have done the same thing- seeing a need, giving everything. One moment the child had plenty of food for himself, the next he had given it all away. No security net. No back up food stores. Maybe, just a little faith that somehow it would all work out for him and for everyone.
Faith? Hope? What else might you call it? In moments of despair and darkness, when you don’t know the ending to the story, you might call it fruitless, pointless, misguided, naïve. It’s not enough. It doesn’t make a difference. And when we say that, we are wrong. When we feel that, we are listening to voices that are trying to deceive us.
I have seen this type of giving in action. I have seen my daughter give away her entire snack to another little friend who had nothing. And when they both realized that she didn’t have a snack anymore, they decided to break it all in half. Maybe it’s easier for children because they already have so little control over their world. So much of their lives are lived in faith that the people around them will step in, step up and take care of them when they are in need. When do we lose that? When do we decide that the world doesn’t work that way? When does compassion for one in need turn to condemnation for one who obviously deserves their plight?
The thing is, I want to live in a world where I am safe. And I’m realizing that the best way to be safe is to ask other people be there for me. As families and communities, cities, and nations, we can be each other’s miracle. We all have something we can give. We will only be defeated if we are convinced there isn’t enough for everyone, that we are alone, we don’t matter and we can’t make a difference.
We can. We must. I promise you that I will. I hold my empty hands out to you; I hope you take my hand in yours.
Catherine Blanchette 2015