Foreign Policy from a Five Year Old

Last night during the girls’ bath time, I became unusually emotional. As I watched them play and laugh, with full bellies and warm pj’s awaiting them, I thought about their safety. And their comfort. And then I thought about how how fortunate they are.. that many children all over the world haven’t had a warm bath or a hot meal today. And still won’t tomorrow.

And then I became conflicted. Should I tell my ‘littles’ about the horror that is every day life for so many Syrians? After all, one of my jobs as their parent is to protect and shield their young years from the pain of this world.

They will learn it on their own–soon enough.

But then I had flashes of the faces I’ve been looking at on the internet for days on end. The beautiful little girls who are my daughters’ ages. The ones who should never have to know loss, fear, hunger and death. Why them?

They didn’t ask to be born into Syria any more than my girls asked to be born American. We don’t get a choice in this world on things like nationality or skin color, or whether our government can protect us from terrorists.

So I started to explain to my five year old, in the best way I knew how, about what is going on in Syria today.

I told her about ISIL. The bad guys.
And what the word ‘refugee’ means.
I told her that people are getting on boats in cold weather, with small children and newborn babies, and hoping that surrounding countries will let them in to be safe. I told her that some boats have turned over and people drowned.

And then I waited to hear her thoughts.

Over and over again, my little Emma just said, “This is horrible. Really horrible.”
Then came her advice.
“Someone needs to help these people.”
“We have to help them.”

So I tried to explain to her why many countries aren’t letting them in. I told her all the arguments I could think of, including “limited resources”, “it’s not our responsibility”, “what if they come over and someone from ISIL sneaks in with them..”

Her responses to these questions were profound.

Me: “Limited resources? Housing, food, water, etc.”
Emma: “We need to learn how to share better.”
Me: “It’s not our responsibility. They aren’t Americans”
Emma: (confused look)
It’s like she couldn’t wrap her mind around that one.
And then lastly,
Me: “When the refugees come over, the bad guys might come over here too, and they could hurt us.” (Try explaining the word ‘infiltrate’ to a five year old)
Emma: “I don’t know, mom. I don’t know what to do. But it’s not those people in the boats fault. The kids aren’t the bad guys. Someone has to help them.”

Now, I know this is a gross oversimplification on the whole situation. So please don’t email or comment that here.
This is a child’s interpretation. Of course it is oversimplified. To adults.
But it’s not oversimplified to children.

“Someone has to help them.

Matthew 18:1-5
Jesus saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me..”