Tuesday, September 8, 2015


Her voice is soft.

"But why, Dr. Wilcox? Why wouldn't we want them to come?"

I draw a deep breath and look into this seventh grader's oh-so-earnest eyes.

Her class has just started a unit on refugees. They are reading LONG WALK TO WATER, about the crisis in Sudan. Today her two incredibly talented teachers are sharing a powerpoint, a series of visual images of refugees from Sudan, Vietnam, Haiti, and Syria, among others. These teenagers become more engaged, more outraged, and quieter, with each image.

And then the question comes.

A is the oldest of three, a sweet, hard working, dependable young woman just coming into her own. She has a sister, two years younger, and a brother in preschool. The three of them live with their mom, who immigrated from Mexico about ten years ago. The family has struggled since A's father passed away when she was in first grade.

Her question comes again as I try to gather my thoughts.

"Why wouldn't we want them to come?"

I explain it the best way I know how, which doesn't feel very good. "It's sort of like if I have a large pizza and I'm planning to eat the whole thing, but then you come along and you are hungry too. I can tell that you are hungry and you would like some pizza. If I give you two or three slices, I will still have more than half, and that's plenty. More than enough. I'd be stuffed if I ate all that pizza. But I don't want to share because I'm selfish."

I continue. "I think that's how the refuge crisis is. Most people in the United States and lots of other countries have plenty. But we are selfish. And we don't want to share."

A looks quizzically at me. "I'm never going to be selfish," she declares, as her big brown eyes fill with tears. "I'm never going to be that way."

"I'm sure you won't," I say. "I'm sure you won't."

Thirty years of this. Such an amazing privilege.


Tara said...

Yes. Children speak the truth, and they have open hearts. It is we adults who have lost the way. Thank you, Carol, for sharing this sweet exchange.

Michelle said...

Yes, we are a lucky few ... such a difficult and complicated conversation was simplified in six words: 'I'm never going to be selfish." We all need to live by those words. Thank you for not being selfish and for sharing this moment of many, many moments. :)

Linda B said...

When Katrina happened there were several organizations where we volunteered, helping to sort donations, collecting at school, etc. Have there been any ideas to help like that? Would they feel like they were doing at least something if they looked? Thanks for sharing, Carol.

Ramona said...

What a reminder to all of us. "I'm never going to be selfish." Once again we are reminded by the young people around us about what really matters. It's time for all of us to learn from the children. You're right, Carol, it is an amazing privilege.

Author Amok said...

I've been seeing Emma Lazarus's "The New Colossus" shared around social media. It's interesting to think about how our country's ideals -- how we like to view ourselves -- is more of a goal than a reality.