May 11, 2016
As I write this, it’s 6:44 AM Pacific Standard Time. I’m on a Lufthansa flight that left from Frankfurt about an hour and a half ago. It’s been a long day. I don’t know how many hours I’ve been awake now, with the time change and all, but I’m certainly approaching the 48-hour mark. So if this post stops making sense at some point, please forgive me.
Before we left this morning, around 3 AM, the team gathered around a group of chairs near our departure gate at the Beirut airport. At least I think it was this morning. It could have been yesterday. Regardless, they all listened intently as I shared a picture from each day of our trip. I tried to choose a picture I’d taken that they hadn’t seen but was still representative of that day’s activities. As I flipped through the images, I read Luke 10, the Parable of the Good Samaritan.
I’ll paraphrase: When a teacher of the Law asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit the earth, Jesus said “Love God with all of who you are and love your neighbor like you’d love yourself.” The teacher tried to trick Jesus by asking “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus told everyone gathered this story. “There once was a man walking along the road. A couple of guys snuck up and attacked him, stealing everything he had with him and leaving at the side of the road so beat up he’d die if he didn’t get help.
Someone who talked about being a good person was walking by and noticed the man. Rather than stopping to help, he pretended he didn’t see what had happened, justifying for himself why he wouldn’t help and then continuing on his way. Another person came along. Everyone who knew her would have said she’s nice, kind even. She’s thoughtful and takes good care of her family; finding time to help with this or that amidst her busy life. She was busy that day and quickly justified moving along. After all, she thought, there are other people who do this kind of work for a living, people who are paid or volunteer to take care of situations like this.
Finally, someone came along who made the decision to help. He didn’t have any remarkable gifts, talents or resources. He didn’t have time to spare. He couldn’t even make everything right. What he chose to do was something. Jesus then said to everyone listening, “Who made a good choice? Who chose to love?” “Obviously the person who saw a need and did something.” Jesus said “You’re right, now live your life the same way.”
During our final debrief with the MCC Reps that hosted us in Lebanon, we learned that over 300 people died in Aleppo, Syria, while we’d been on our tour. Aleppo, a city the size of the Greater Toronto Area, was already missing half its people. Half the city was already empty, and now it had lost 300 more to the war.
If you’re first response to reading this is guilt, drop it. Guilt is a cheap motivator. It’s like sugar – a quick high that leaves you with less energy than you started with. I am choosing to not let my experience in Lebanon cause me to feel guilt. I have chosen to put my energy into writing. I will take time to be a witness for those who are victims of conflict. I will be a voice for those who have been screaming for help with little impact.
“What he chose to do was something.”
As I leaf through the pages of the purple notebook I carried in my camera bag throughout the trip, there are many more stories I’d like to share with you. Important stories. Stories of struggle, resilience and hope. I encourage you to continue reading these posts, learning more about this crisis that is not going away anytime soon. Together, we can choose to love instead of just walking by.