Coventry Carol (Song Series #14)
I think it’s just a fact of our human wiring. Things close at hand: more urgent than faraway things. Fresh and novel things: more compelling than familiar things. People like me: more compelling than people unlike me.
Maybe, then, after our years of seeing weepy charity commercials, it’s almost understandable: We just get inoculated against the problems of humans who are far away. We register it, we know it’s bad, we think it’s tragic, but we don’t acutely feel it. I’m writing from my own experience of inoculation. I’m in this same gray boat.
How do we make it feel real? How do we hack our wiring? Would it help if we thought of Syrian refugees, for example, as people with hobbies, favorite comedians, car problems, pop songs they know by heart, and the early morning craving for a cup of coffee? Because those things are actually true. We just see the news footage of the anguished woman with the head scarf running from the fire. But she is all of these things.
Christmas, too, gets familiar. I suppose this is what people are getting at when they put those Keep Christ in Christmas bumper stickers on their car (I’ll admit it, I find these stickers both cloying and annoying). But there’s something I can’t stop thinking about this year, and I want to say it again and again and again: That anyone who celebrates Christmas religiously is celebrating the birth of a baby whose family quickly became refugees. The violence they fled is described in the gospel of Matthew, when King Herod, trying to preserve his power, ordered the killing of all male babies under two. Mary, Joseph and the baby fled to Egypt and didn’t return until some years later. They were running from the violence of a tyrant. Like Syrian refugees.
“The Coventry Carol” is melodic and haunting and lovely. And it’s also about the flight from a massacre.
Guitar: Rob Hinst Vocals: Jen Hinst-White Traditional, 15th century
Finally, little light in the darkness:
If you want to be inspired and get the warm fuzzies, check out this workbook that Mercy Corps made for refugee children to work through their experienecs. It’s so cool.
And if you feel distant from Syrian refugees—or if you just want to be amazed—check out this animated video created by a boy named Hammoudi, whose family lived in the suburbs of Aleppo before they fled to Lebanon. Hammoudi illustrated this entire thing in an art therapy program created by an organization called Mercy Corps. Mercy Corps, by the way, is an organization that does incredible work helping Syrian refugees with food and essentials (and psychosocial support for traumatized children) as these families try to write the next chapter of their lives.