Thanksgiving & A Boat Full of People

Photo: Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times

Gut-wrenching to see, isn’t it?  

A boat full of people desperate to live.

People who have lost their homes…friends…maybe even their families…perhaps everything they have ever known.  

They’ve fled Syria, Iraq, and other places where staying would likely lead to death.  

Some get in boats to cross the choppy sea with nothing to lose…because many of them have left everything behind or lost everything already.

We want to forget that this tragedy is even happening.  

We don’t want to acknowledge the fact that we cannot stand by and do nothing.  

We try to ignore that part of the world that seems constantly embroiled in conflict and too difficult to understand.

We want to think of turkeys, pumpkin pie, football, and laughter.  

And, while I want to think of those things too, I can’t forget the plight of people of Syria.  

I can’t forget these people you see here on the boat.  

And, you can’t forget them either.

I won’t let you.

I won’t let you off the hook.  I won’t let you return to normal programming while people die trying to save their families.

I won’t let you pretend that things aren’t that bad “over there.”

Because they are.  Things are bad.  

So bad that hundreds of thousands of people are willing to risk their lives to cross the sea.  They make this treacherous journey, escaping war, oppression, lack of political and economic rights, and hopelessness, believing that there is something better…safety…maybe even a future…just across the water.

And, when they see the shores of Greece, they think things must get better soon.  

But, for many, surviving the journey across the sea is just the beginning.  

They have so much further to go…

This Thanksgiving as you fly across the country or drive across town to see your family or friends, remember that many in the world don’t have the freedom or ability to see loved ones or even escape the horrible situations that they find themselves in.  

As you hug your sister, hang out with your parents, and reconnect with childhood friends, remember that many refugees have either left loved ones behind to try to pave the way for the rest of their family or have lost family and friends in conflict or in the attempt to escape.  

As you sit at the dining room table to pass the turkey around, remember how many people no longer have a place to call home, who feel like strangers no matter where they are.  Those who were once able to provide for their families who no longer can legally work in host countries and struggle to keep their families alive.

I’m not here to spoil your Thanksgiving.  And, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t celebrate and be thankful.

But, I also ask that you think about the people of Syria and those fleeing parts of the world where violence and conflict have turned their lives upside down.  The refugees who are desperate for a better life.  

What can you do to be a part of their struggle?  

What can you do to help?  

How can you walk alongside them as they try to piece their lives back together?

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