“Oh, the humanity!”

September 16th, 2015 | Posted by Barbara Belknap in Activation | Articles

Syrians and donated shoes That is what Herbert Morrison, an American radio reporter cried out when the Hindenburg zeppelin, a German passenger airship, exploded on May 6, 1937 near Lakehurst, New Jersey. It burst into flames and the thirty-six people on board perished. Since then, the expression has been used to describe all kinds of disasters. It’s what I’ve been thinking as I watch the masses of refugees and migrants surging into Europe. Oh, the humanity.

My focus has been on the women who are waiting, walking, sitting, carrying infants, grasping the hands of small children, bedding down in the open. They are walking along a road, rushing towards a bus, a train or a boat, and straining to keep up with their husbands or brothers while helping an elder and the children. But now, they are mostly waiting near Hungary’s border.

The women are dressed in head scarves and long abayas while the men and most of the kids (girls and boys) are in t-shirts, jeans, and tennis shoes. It’s hard to see their feet, but the women in the pictures I’ve seen are wearing flats or short heeled black shoes. It made my own feet hurt just to look at them!

An infant can become very heavy after 30 minutes, but they are carrying their babies for hours. They are holding onto another child’s tiny hand, and the older children walk alongside their mothers or grasp their father’s hand. Sometimes, we see a father carrying a child on his shoulders. “Don’t leave mommy’s side,” we say to our little ones in the supermarket. “Stay right beside me.” The children on this perilous journey are literally hanging on for dear life. I try to imagine carrying a bundle of clothing, a small child, holding onto another child, and making sure the other kids are close by. I could also be watching out for grandma and grandpa. They are a community on the move, or maybe they form community groups from their towns, but I’m sure they are all watching out for the children.

The women outnumber the men. Statistics from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 50.5% of the refugees are women aged 18 to 59. Females age 18 to 59 make up 23.9% of the refugees, while males in that age group make up 21.8 percent. The majority of the refugees (51.1%) are under age 17, including 38.5% who are under 12 years old. (This is as of September 6.)

The World Post, an affiliate of The Huffington Post, has an article by Tim Rogers titled, “How Syrian Refugees Challenge Us To Be Better”. There are heart wrenching pictures of the Syrians when the Hungarian police stopped them. The local people came out and gave them water, clothing, shoes, and blankets. A few days ago, a group donated sanitary pads. Can you imagine being on such an arduous journey AND be in your period? Empathy is the ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Pain on so many levels.

This is a very dynamic situation, changing hourly as world leaders come to grips with the magnitude of it. May they think with their hearts.

Today, September 15, Google pledged to match up the first $5.5 million in donations to Doctors Without Borders, International Rescue Center, Save the Children, and the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees. Google will do this until donations reach $5.5 million. The link is at http//www.onetoday.google.com. Humanity will win out.

Photo by Tim Rogers

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