Friday, April 20, 2012

No Spring Break

It is a warm spring day. Spring-break for the local schools means there are lots of kids out and about, skate boarding, biking, playing in the woods. A “fort” has materialized under the big old white pine at the end of our lane. The tree offers many perfectly placed limbs for climbing. At any given time, there may be five or six young boys moving around in its branches as they enter their imaginary dramas in play. Their concentration is intense – so intense that they do not even notice when I walk by. They are free to roam the woods and create whole worlds under the clear sky and the vibrant sun. Perhaps the greatest words of parental caution ringing in their ears are that they should be mindful of the ticks. Their immediate world is safe.

Their play reminds me of my own childhood days, growing up on the edge of a pond that was surrounded by undeveloped, wooded land. My younger sister and I could disappear into woods after lunch – into all kinds of fantasies - and not return until the sun began to set late in the afternoon. We became whatever we wanted to be, tried on the identities of princesses and paupers, witches and fairy god-mothers and our most feared enemies were the poison ivy and the leeches that sometimes grabbed on if we went wading in the pond. Our little world was safe.

Daily I am aware of the bombing in Syria. Where do the children play? Where is there enough safety for them to enter their childhood fantasies? Do their young minds even entertain the notion of being anything more than fearful for their survival? What do bombed out buildings stimulate in their imaginations? What are the warnings they carry in their ears from their terrified parents? “Do not go out the door – the world is dangerous!” “Be careful where you walk –there is broken glass and sharp metal everywhere!” “Do not go into the neighborhood – the buildings are in danger of collapsing!” “Stay indoors, in the cellar, in the shelter, away from cars, under the table… the bombs will come again.” Their world is not only unsafe, it is deadly. The play of children becomes the fear-filled work of survival.

As much as I enjoy the peaceful sounds of the little boys playing in the woods at the end of our lane, my heart aches with longing for the safety of the children who are the greatest victims of warring adults. If they survive long enough, the world will belong to them. What will their childhood nightmares teach them about how to live in the adult world? Where will the dreams for a peaceful, nonviolent life for them and their families come from?

The world is not safe. As long as it is unsafe for the children of war in Syria, it is not safe for anyone – even for the little guys who play in the trees on my street.

Vicky Hanjian

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