One of the boys painting today had burns all across his entire body. Another had a scar the size of my index finger from his ear to his cheek. They danced to Bob Marley with a slanted and joyful tambour, in the middle of the blistering sun. The sadness is not the trauma, its the falsity of hope. A refugee can hope to return home, a refugee wakes up in the morning, still homeless. A metal lifeless box, in the middle of nothingness. Imagine waking up in the morning every day, knowing you live a life of waiting.
I spoke to two of the most inspired boys, and asked them about finding ways of integrating creativity into their lives everyday. They replied: “We have no brushes.” A reality, only a possibility with gift giving of the world. What can transcend the hope and violence of stagnation? We are but humans. Suffering is not inevitable, but in this conflicted part of the world, it is. The suffering of boredom, in the middle of nowhere-land. Cursed to wait in the waiting room outside the door of war.
Much of a traumatized community is full of spite, anger and depression. Forgiveness comes through Martyrdom and the focus is not on the future but on the past. Anger stays, and productivity dies away. Constructive building cannot come when the focus is on anger. What will happen to all of these Syrian refugees? Many in neighboring countries are fearful they will become equivalent to the Palestinians, never to return home, and never to integrate.
The honor of looking into the eyes of these children feels as though I am honored to witness their energy. Their longing for humanity, and their surprise at my attention. When youth have been spoken down to throughout life, respect becomes a surprise. I asked the local Mercy Corps translator why this part of the world has so much killing, and he said Islam. Not true or real Islam, but the distortion of it. This distortion has caused the PTSD reactions, triggered by a boom in the distance of a UN bulldozer building a temporary home for a generation of children.
The calls to prayer still calls everyday from the blue tower, constructed next to a temporary tent-mosque. People pray all over the world, and people kill all over the world. Today I saw two men in the middle of the desert, with their heads to the ground, surrounded by the abyss of dust. If you ask the refugee children how they are in Arabic, they respond with “Humdiallah: Thankful are we to God.” This gratitude transcends reality, it forces hopeful appreciation, and becomes the norm. I saw a man drag his tiny daughter by the ear across the desert with her screaming all the way.In a land of spite, frustration is the water that keeps the river murky. They say the mercy of the world forgets no one, but why were they forgotten?
One may ask: “What is the impact of art in a situation of dire consequences and a lack of necessities?” If one child can find inspiration of how creativity can bring new thought and a way to deal with trauma, then that is the water of the soul. It is a release of what has been experienced, and a potential catalyst for a next step. A boy sat quietly by the corner of the canvas painting by himself. When he was done, he walked to another location on the canvas. What was left was a truck with a missile launcher attached. This, next to a boy holding a kite high in the air.
As the team drove away from the camp, a kite made of plastic flew high above the barbed wire. A tiny child at the helm of the high-flyer looked with dirt in his eyes above to the blistering sun. A poetic goodbye, in the frame of a child finding the art of play amongst the fight to maintain a childhood. .