I sit in an air-conditioned bagel shop, drinking my ice-cold diet coke (already on my 3rd refill) after already eating two bagels with reduced-fat cream cheese. Around me are healthy, smiling beach-bound young men and women. Some mothers talk about their long weekend, as their well-behaved kids munch away. One more refill of diet, and I continue to read about the horrific violence in Syria; then look at video interviews of newly displaced Darfuris; then re-read a message from a refugee friend, Umda Tarbosh, who tells us:

The situation in the camp is very worrisome, as the disease of malaria has stricken here. So you can find in every house more than three people sick with malaria. The treatments are not enough. People who have died now is more than 35, and the number is increasing. The patients are 1,000. Much is unknown about the rest who are in their farms, far away and who cannot get to the camp because of the valley.

mother_djb“Dan, your bagel is ready, Dan!” the booming voice brings me back to my reality. Just a few weeks ago, I was in that refugee camp where malaria is now devastating lives, and I was in that camp where new arrivals shared their stories of escaping unthinkable violence. Here a mother tells her beautiful, curly-haired boy to eat all of his bagel. In the camp, a mother told us of laying motionless on the ground for an entire day, so that the Janjaweed would not see her, as they burned her village and the farms around it. Her fifteen year old son, Adam, killed for being the wrong ethnicity.

As our nation debates whether to drop bombs on another country (to punish them for dropping another type of bombs on their own people) —”Eric, your order is ready.”

I feel lucky and grateful that my children live in this reality and not the one where they could be suffocated by gas weapons or burnt as they sleep in their hut. But, how do we make it so that we’re all more connected and responsible for suffering—and joy—no matter where in the world. On days like this, it feels like hate and war are overwhelmingly winning, and that peace and compassion are an afterthought.

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Gandhi, Mandela, King, Suu Kyi—we need more of, and at the global level. We need brave leaders that are willing to go beyond their own borders, that see every person as “one of their own” and inspire a new generation of world peace warriors. Being an idealist in wishing for compassion to be the driving world force, for humanity to come before politics, should not be a crazy, impossible dream.

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I want my children to live in safety and surrounded by love, but I want them to feel connected with others that might not live like they do. I want them not to ignore suffering. Am I setting them up to be less happy?

“Janette, your bagel is ready.”

Peace,
Gabriel

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