We were living in a Muslim country when 9/11 happened, and we learned about it on the radio. The local people expressed grief and indignation over our loss. And for us, the loss was personal—apart from that year in Africa, New York was our home.
When, a few months later, we received the Samaritan’s Purse Shoeboxes, we were eager to distribute them to the orphans and underprivileged children living in the community. Some children had no words, only faces full of astonishment and wonder. I remember how the pain of one event didn’t preclude the pleasure of giving in another.
Fourteen years later, we didn’t experience a tragedy from afar. The recent Paris attacks hit close to home. It was a friend’s Facebook message that alerted me this time while I was in bed.
We had visited the Syrian refugees a few weeks before the attack. We found out where they camped and learned about the poor sanitary conditions. There were scabies and meningitis and hunger, and the cold was coming. So I learned how to make Syrian food. I made a lot! I bought Halal meat mostly — meat sacrificed according to Muslim ritual — because even though I’m a Christian, there’s that scripture about not causing your brother to stumble by what he eats or drinks.
We were too late. When we arrived, there were no tents, only debris. They had all been moved somewhere else. So our minivan was filled with donations — diapers, soap, clothes, toothbrushes, medicine, bottled water, and anything else we thought might be useful. Oh, and we had all that food.
In the end, we found three straggling families and gave everything to them. All of it. Except for the Syrian rice made with fried eggplant and non-Halal ground beef, which they refused. What we gave them was way, way more than what they needed. It was intended for an army. Most of it probably ended up near the trashcans for other members of society to cart away and try and re-sell. Those three families were not forgotten; their need was not negligible.
Isn’t this the way of the world? Abundantly giving above and beyond bare necessity? Purple flowers cling to the craggy hillside, hidden from view. Shiny green insects scurry on forest paths where no feet tread. Exotic fish swim so deep no human eyes ever glimpse their strange form. Wheat falls to seed because there is too much of it to harvest. The Universe is extravagant in its abundance.
The night after the Paris attacks, we went to a charity gala planned months before. It was to raise funds for soaps and sanitary products for the food distribution our church does on the streets of Paris each week. The influx of homeless has dramatically increased with all the refugees. Who knows when they can return to their homes — if ever? It was the perfect way to re-engage in life when reeling from shock and grief.
The terrorists try to steal so much from us, don’t they? They are the shadows and darkness that want to engulf the world. Our light slices darkness. They can’t steal our forgiveness. They can’t steal our peace. They can’t steal our acts of goodness. They can’t steal our love. They can’t take any of those things unless we give it to them.
These days I long to give in extravagant abundance. I want to sprinkle it like gold dust and scatter it like confetti and offer it up like incense and fling it into the breeze! Hatred and fear, though, I refuse to give.
I refuse to meet their darkness with darkness.
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Paris Now was written by Jennie Goutet exclusively for BonBon Break Media LLC.
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