My 5-year-old hero

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It was dark, wet and terrifying.  I was taking shelter in a corner of the boat where nobody could see that my eyes are about to betray my pride and spill a few tears out, Where nobody could see how shaky, weak, and vulnerable I was, or perhaps just how “not me” I was! The waves of hysterical yelling and infants’ cries surrounding me were far more powerful than the waves of the heartless sea in which we’re sailing. I chose to take a short nap so I could forget about the present for a while and get the precious opportunity to dream about arriving at the Greek shores safe and sound to seek refuge. Interestingly, I did not yet realize that this experience would reveal more about me than I ever knew, and more about how dirty, selfish and disgusting this world is, than anyone would ever imagine.

It may sound logical that a touch from a tiny soft 5-year-oldhand can be the most pleasant way to wake up from a nap, however, under certain conditions, it can be very different. “Would you like some?” said the 5-year-old girl bombarding my negative thoughts with the most innocent, yet the most powerful eye contact I ever had to confront. Her confident eyes, of green color, as well as age, truly brought shame to my vulnerable stance. Her seemingly soft but genuinely rock-hard hands holding a piece of Syrian bread towards me knocked me down.

For the record, the knock down of shame I received from that girl, or my hero as I prefer to call her, was only meant to make me realize that my positon as a Syrian individual in an ugly unjust world has no space for fragility or weakness. It was only meant to bring me up shortly after. She stretched her arm with the piece of bread further towards me interrupting my noisy train of thought. At that moment, words were simply not as loyal to me as my physical reflexes. I pulled her strongly to my chest with both arms and hugged her tightly. On a side note, it was almost the same type of hug I would give to my mother while scared of ghosts at night when I was her age, except far more uplifting.

My encounter with my hero lasted no more than a few seconds. My hero disappeared among people, but her confident reassuring presence remained with me up to this moment, along with a piece of bread. After that, I was no longer sitting weak and fragile in a corner. I had just had the most detailed few-seconds lesson on how to be strong. I learned that the journey I was obliged to take in order to survive can be tough, but my life-loving spirit must always be tougher. I learned that the world can be an unjust place; very unjust in fact that it would decide who deserves to live and who deserves to die, who has to go through pain and who doesn’t, based on arbitrary geographic locations, but it remains my responsibility to resist injustice and stand up for myself. My mouth out sped my thoughts again and concluded the internal battle against my vulnerable self with a victorious smile

A minute later, I could clearly hear my little pocket notebook screaming at me to take it out! There was a secret connection between my victorious smile and its scream. We both knew it was finally time to write something down.

As I calm my screaming notebook by reaching the end of my letter to the Syrian youth, and as my pen prepares to declare its disobedience in the midst of the intensifying rage of the Mediterranean, I would like to warn my fellow Syrians who fear change and struggle with internal strength, that someday, somewhere, a pair of 5-year-old green eyes are going to look you straight in the eyes, but there won’t be a piece of bread, and you will need to have an answer.

-Obaida

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