During his final speech to the parties of the United Nations, President Obama read a letter written by six-year-old named Alex. He was a young boy from New York, with a mind untainted and a heart filled with hope. With the purest faith only a child can possess, he writes to the most powerful man that he knows of and requests that President Obama himself drive Omran to his home in New York. Omran, the young Syrian boy who made history with the footage of him being removed from the wreckage of a worn torn building; lifted bleeding and matted with dust and injury into an ambulance, sitting stunned, ripped from his innocence.
In detail, young Alex speaks of his intention to give Omran a home and to welcome him to become a part of his family. He goes on to promise that his sister will catch butterflies and fireflies for him and that he will teach him to ride a bike. He promises to bring his new brother to make friends with his friends and concludes that he will also teach him addition and subtraction. All beautiful promises to nurture and love a child and support a sibling the way his parents have so clearly done for him. President Obama, clearly affected by the words expressed by such a young child, moves forward with his speech saying, ‘We could all learn something from Alex.’
Truth be told, I have not been able to get 10 seconds into this video without being reduced to tears. This boy. This dear, sweet and innocent boy saw a child who had a need and immediately thought only of how he might be able to help. He didn’t see this boy’s skin, this boy’s heritage, this boy’s faith, he saw only a boy just like him.
We are not born haters. Hate is a learned behavior. We live in an age of instantaneous news feeds met with immediate running commentary based largely on feeling and opinion. Fact checking is too frequently considered after the fact. The big news is the best news and fear mongering is a great way to go after it. Alex wasn’t afraid. Quite to the contrary, he was bold. Writing to the President of the United States requesting a drop off in his driveway! But where did Alex get his courage, his kindness, his generosity of spirit from?
I am a parent. I have three little ones entrusted to me. It is my responsibility, my privilege to raise them as beacons of light. But how? How do we find the balance? How do we teach our young to be cautious but not afraid? To have two feet firmly rooted but be willing to go when called? How do we teach them of God’s great love for us when we live in a world torn apart by agenda, deception, hate and greed? Whether it be missiles or boardroom brawl, the darkness of our world is moving in and leaving many wondering if it is even worth the time in lighting a candle.
Martin Luther King Jr. was once quoted as saying, ‘Darkness cannot drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: Only love can do that.’ This iconic man had a dream, one we are all familiar with. A man aware that silence is as big a threat as a trigger.
There was another man with a similar message, penned to a book that has been carried down and throughout history. In 1 John 1:5 the author writes, ‘The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.’ In verse 7 he goes on to write, ‘But if we walk in the light as He (Christ) is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another.’
To oversimplify a metaphor, imagine your child frightened in their bedroom at night. Their nightlight has gone out. The shadows chasing down their wall from the faint light of the moon has created uncertainty in their minds as to what they are seeing and if these things they are imagining are safe. Calling out for comfort you enter their room, letting in the light. Immediately, the fears amidst the unknown of the dark is set straight.
There can be no dark in the light.
So what then is our responsibility as parents? As citizens of the human race?
Be a light in the darkness. Lead by example from a place of hope. Be bold and ask the most powerful man that you know for His wisdom and unending grace.
As president Obama said, we could all learn something from Alex. I know that I have. I hope that you do to.