The car was on, heat blasting, as the dashboard thermostat read 11 degrees.  I threw the bags in the trunk and ran back inside to get some respite from the cold.  Why hadn’t I grabbed my coat before hurrying outside to start the car and wake it from its overnight freeze?  I called upstairs to my daughter in my normal, frantic, is it really that time already fashion.

“Mommy’s going to be late for work!”  If I had a nickel for every time I said that, I wouldn’t  have to, well, work.  Alas, the bill collector beckons, so the mad dash to the front door with my child in tow resumed.

Most mornings, when I yell that same refrain, there are actually a few minutes to spare.  Will I really be late?  Maybe if I get stuck behind a school bus or if the traffic lights separating my house from the babysitter’s conspire against me; however, it’s pretty unlikely.

Today, though?  It was a legitimate concern.  So, the tug of war that ensued with my rather strong-willed child was not a struggle I needed to have on a bitterly cold, seriously that’s the time, where the heck are your shoes kind of morning.  Here’s how it went down.

Me: OK, Maddie.  Time to get your coat on.  <I cautiously reach for the winter coat I tried to put her in a day before, but to no avail.>

My darling daughter: No!!!  <Imagine a shrill 4 year old girl’s voice.  Nice, right?  Now, take it up an octave.  There.  Now you’ve got it.>  I don’t want to wear it!!

Me: But it’s so soft and fluffy.  I wish I had a coat like this!

My daughter: <The tears start.>  I don’t want to!!

Me: But look.  It’s the same color as Elsa’s dress.  <Oh yeah.  A Disney analogy will totally work.>

Daughter: No!!!  <Now, the nose starts to run.>

Me: Maddie, enough.  You have to wear your coat.  It’s freezing out. <That’s right.  Laying down the law.>

My offspring: AHHHH!!!!

Me: Put your coat on and you can play with your phone in the car. <Yup.  I went there.  And, yes.  You read right.  I can already hear the naysayers.  “Your phone?  She has a phone?!”  Look, it’s my old one and all she can do is play educational games.  OK, well, that’s a lie.  But listen people, just back off!  It’s been a morning, alright?!>

That girl who lives with me: <Through sniffles.>  O- <sniffle> -K.  <Sniffle.  Dramatic pause.>  You’re mean, Mommy.

Ah, there it was.  At least she’s not to the “I hate you” phase yet.  The teenage years should be a blast.

Now, here’s the part where I feel as though I could branch off in multiple directions with this article.  If you had a chance to read my Christmas post, this could very easily fit its “Find Joy in the Chaos” theme.  I could probably get a halfway decent “Parenting 101: When and How to Bribe Your Kids” how-to article from it.  But as I drove my still whimpering yet toasty warm child to the babysitter and then continued on to work, all I could think about was that coat.  Did she really have to wear that one?  No.  It is certainly the warmest, but there are others.  There’s the brown one with toggles, the purple hoodie, the white fleece zip-up, the pink with faux fur, the flower pattern one.  We have dozens of coats.  In fact, the coat rack can’t contain them all.  Not everyone has this luxury, though.

You know that feeling when you just can’t get warm?  You’re wearing gloves, but the tips of your fingers are numb from the frigid temperatures.  Despite the layers of clothes, your body still aches.  Your ears hurt.  You’ve lost feeling in your nose.  It’s not just cold.  It’s oppressive.

That’s the kind of cold Syrian refugees are dealing with on a daily basis.  We in the Northeast just experienced one of the warmest Decembers on record.  The cold spell which followed is just that.  Fleeting.  And even if it wasn’t, we have the supplies to not simply survive the cold, but thrive in the kind of comfort of which others only dream.  Such abundance is not the reality for Syrians who have fled for their lives.  That isn’t what it’s like day after day in the woefully inadequate refugee camps in Lebanon or the miserable slums of Turkey and Jordan, where fuel is hard to come by and sleep is non-existent.  How could you sleep when your young children, huddled together for warmth, are in harm’s way from a cave-in should you fail to brush the ever accumulating snow from the roof of your dilapidated tent?

The memory of the infamous ice storm of 1994 remains a vivid picture in my mind.  My family, in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania, lost power for three days.  The thrill of time off from school, heating soup by the warmth of the fire, and “roughing it” on the living room floor in sleeping bags wore off very quickly as I missed my friends, television, using the microwave, and central heating.  I missed normalcy and routine.

That was three days. Three days.

Fathiya Ahmed has been displaced from her native Syria and forced to live in a cramped, squalid, and rat-infested apartment for three years.  That’s 1,095 days.

My day started with an argument that really didn’t need to happen.  Baraa Hamid’s day starts with the ever diminishing hope that perhaps today is the day she can return home, that peace will have come to her war-weary land.

I bargain with my daughter over which coat she will wear.  Syrian parents try to insist their son go to school while realizing the income he can provide by peddling wares in the nearest town is a higher priority and necessary for survival.

More than 2 million children have been driven from school because of the conflict in Syria.

A generation is being raised in an environment where all they have known is fear, violence, despair, and now cold.  An oppressive cold.

Watch the videos.  Listen to their stories.  Scroll through the pictures.  Look into their faces.  Focus on their eyes.  Do you hear it?  Do you see it?




A glimmer of hope?

This issue is not political.  You can make it that, if you try.  People are more than willing to enter into a debate without the slightest provocation.  But it’s bigger than that.  It’s bigger than politics and rhetoric, than candidates and parties.  It’s bigger than individual opinions.

This is an issue of morality, of ethics, of knowing what’s right and doing it.

Here’s how you can help.

Syrians need life-saving supplies like food, medicine, clothes for winter, and fuel to keep warm.  The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has gained the highest rating from multiple charity watchdog organizations and is a reliable group through which to donate.

Additionally, a number of other organizations, many faith-based, have earned superior ratings.  Whichever you prefer, please consider making a donation.  Journalist Kevin Sullivan puts this dire situation into perspective.  “Private groups said fundraising has been difficult. Save the Children has raised $1.6 million in private donations for Syrian refugees over the past three years. In the first two weeks after the recent Philippines typhoon, the group raised $6 million. After the 2010 Haiti earthquake, it raised more than $26 million in six months.”

Fathiya, Baraa, and so many others need your help.

How else?

Embrace compassion, not fear.  Is this world a scary place?  Absolutely.  Beyond the headlines regarding Syria, scandal, war, disease, and abuse run rampant in the 24 hour news cycle.  It seems no matter where we turn, the grim reality of death and destruction stare us in the face.  I understand the apprehension.  I get the fear.

However, in these times, I’m also reminded of some truths that challenge, yet bring comfort.

The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble.  He cares for those who trust in him. ~Nahum 1:7 (NIV)

In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world. ~John 16:33b (NIV)

We were never assured lives of comfort and ease; rather, the promise of inconvenience and trouble necessitating refuge and protection is laden throughout scripture.

Don’t leave it at that, though, the vow within the promise of deliverance from trials and distress.  When the Israelites realized they forgot about God’s faithfulness in rescuing them from Egypt and providing strong leadership through Moses and Aaron to aid them in their flight, they wished to redeem themselves.  But how?  Their Father gently but firmly reminded them of what He desired.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. ~Micah‬ ‭6:8‬ ‭(NIV‬)

He nudges us, too, willing us to listen, imploring us to take up His cause.  “Do what is right,” He whispers.

Let today be the day we do what is right by showing love and compassion.

Let us open our hearts and homes to rescue God’s precious ones from the cold, a very deep and oppressive cold.

To every word You speak
I’ll go where You will lead
To love the least of these
Is my greatest offering.
~All Sons and Daughters