When I Want to Whine About Life….

When I want to whine about life I find this:

And I am struck by the resilience of the human spirit, the ability to find joy in the worst circumstances, and the hope found in a makeshift swing.

The Challenge to “Not Go Numb”

“Just numb it!” I say emphatically every time I go to the dentist. “I don’t want to feel a thing.”

And it’s true. I had five babies naturally with barely a thought of intervention of any kind — but my teeth? Just numb me up. Laughing gas, ether, even a couple shots of whiskey, I’ll take anything! I just want to go numb.

And sometimes I feel like this with world events. Just numb me. I don’t want to feel them. I can’t do a thing about these events so just numb me.

But the challenge from those on the ground, indeed the plea from those on the ground is that we not go numb. Nancy Lindborg from USAID says “Our challenge is to not go numb, to remember the numbers, to remember the faces.” 

She said this a couple of months ago during a live panel discussion on Syria. The panel was sponsored by the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a center devoted to the bipartisan solutions and insights into international issues affecting our world today.

The panel was clear and informative and served as an excellent resource on what is going on today in a conflict that daily struggles to reach the headlines, largely because it has gone on too long and lost our attention, more importantly – lost the world’s attention. The Syrian conflict is white noise in a world drowning from information overload. 

But I want to remember and I don’t want to go numb. So as I listened to the panel I frantically scribbled notes, discernible only to me, on a piece of scrap paper so that I would remember some of the key points.

Here are some of those points: 

  • Humanitarian agencies were not targeted in the past – they have been systematically attacked in Syria.
  • “Fewer clinics being bombed because there are fewer clinics to bomb” – this statement, again from Nancy Lindborg, shouted at me.
  • Polio, measles out breaks feared – so many people at such close quarters
  • Syria was a middle-income country. yet people are leaving with nothing so the need for basic supplies is huge.
  • Huge problems”water sanitation, health needs especially due to egregious targeting of civilian facilities (hospitals, doctors)”
  • Humanitarian Aid groups are continually looking for ways that not only stabilize but build resilience inside and outside the country of Syria.
  • Need to strengthen the countries who are taking in refugees, only then will they have the ability to meet the needs of the massive refugee population.
  • The number of refugees who have come into Lebanon is the equivalent of the United States absorbing another state of California. It’s a massive influx of people and resources are already slim to help with those who are citizens.

And now it’s not just Syria. It’s the aftermath of Gaza, an age-old conflict that is wearing new rags and hurting another generation. It’s the evil of ISIS. It’s Ferguson and the continued rumblings of racism and grief. It’s floods in Pakistan. It’s poverty and homelessness in Central Square, my back yard. And oh how I want to go numb.

Where is the hope? 

Hope is in “9th grade girls back in school after losing 3 years – seeing them was extraordinarily inspiring.” Hope is in 400,000 refugee children being able to start school again in Lebanon. Hope is in young Somali refugees sending letters to Syrian refugees, a show of solidarity and understanding. Hope is in surgeons who are healing in the midst of war. Hope is in those that believe, against all odds, that there is a future, a future and a hope. Hope is in my Parish – Holy Resurrection, with people who have come forward in extraordinary ways to donate vitamins, infant tylenol, and wound supplies for refugees in Turkey.

Hope is in people who don’t go numb, but continue to watch, to pray, and to act. 

A Practical Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis


On Stacy Boulevard in Gloucester, Massachusetts there is a bronze statue dedicated to the women and children left behind when fishermen lost their lives to the sea. I saw this statue today and my mind traveled immediately to the women and children of Iraq and Syria, those casualties of war who are trying to find refuge around the world.

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”*

Two years ago: My husband left for Eastern Turkey and the Syrian border on Friday from Logan International Airport. As I was getting ready to fly out from Mumbai, he was heading across the ocean in the opposite direction.

The trip came up unexpectedly and will be a quick one – in and out with medical supplies and more to drop off with organizations that are working with refugees. The hope is that he and the man who he is traveling with will be better equipped to funnel emergency supplies to those that most need them, as well as to engage with key personnel on the ground who are able to help.

AT THE TIME WHEN I FIRST WROTE THIS, over 2 million refugees had fled into surrounding countries. NOW, THE NUMBER TOPS 11 MILLION. The number is staggering and resources in the countries of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq are strained.

Refugee camps will break your heart and then mend it in a matter of seconds: Break your heart for the need, mend it with the picture of redemptive resilience.  I am anxiously waiting his return with hopes that we can do more in the future to help.

But in the mean time there are hygiene and baby care supply kits that are practical and easy to assemble.  They are gathered by either International Orthodox Christian Charities or Church World Service and disseminated to Syrian refugees in various parts of the world.  It’s something that any of us can do. We can make them if we’re alone, we can make them with our families, and we can make them with a church community or a neighborhood. It just takes the proper supplies and an assembly line type of process. In the words of my husband these are “vital, vital, vital” to the ongoing crisis of housing and caring for refugees.

I’ve included the link here to learn more about making these kits but to make it easier, here is what you need: (Important note – don’t add anything to the kits, make them exactly as instructed) 

To assemble a Baby Care Kit you will need:

  • Six cloth diapers
  • Two T-shirts or undershirts (no onesies)
  • Two washcloths
  • Two gowns or sleepers
  • Two diaper pins
  • One sweater or sweatshirt (Can be handknitted or crocheted)
  • Two receiving blankets (one can be a hand-knitted or crocheted baby blanket)

Items must be new and under 12 months in size. Wrap items inside one of the receiving blankets and secure with both diaper pins. Click here or here for further instructions!

To assemble a Hygiene Kit you will need:

  • One hand towel measuring approximately 16″ x 28″ (no fingertip or bath towels)
  • One washcloth
  • One wide-tooth comb
  • One nail clipper
  • One bar of soap (bath size in wrapper)
  • One toothbrush (in original packaging)
  • Six standard size Band-Aids®

Place all items in a one-gallon plastic bag with a zipper closure, remove excess air from bag, and seal. Please do not add toothpaste to the Hygiene Kit. Cartons of toothpaste that have an extended expiration date will be added to Hygiene Kit shipments just before shipment. Click here or here for further instructions!

Another suggestion: Hold a “Refugee Awareness” night at your church. You can find facts and figures at UNHCR to give people a sense of the scope of the problem. Have them bring items for the kits and make them right there.

For more information including how to mail the kits please go either of these websites: http://www.iocc.org/kits.aspx or http://www.cwsglobal.org/get-involved/kits/


Update September 7,2015: Make sure you check any charity you give to through this Charity Navigator so you can ensure your donation is spent well. Here are the top rated sites for giving to Syria!

Two smaller groups that donate directly to those in need with almost no overhead costs are Nu Day Syria and Conscience International.

I look forward to hearing from many of you as to how it worked to make these and who you got together to assemble them. Do you have other ideas? Would love to hear some of them through the comments!

*Bob Pierce, founder of World Vision on the fly leaf of his Bible