Earlier this week, the body of a three-year-old boy washed up on the shores of Turkey.
His mother and brother also died in those waters, as have countless others seeking a better life after being forced out of their own homes and homelands.
This family, in particular, had been trying to get from Turkey to Canada. They had left their home in Syria, and in desperation paid a human smuggler in the hopes of joining their family in Vancouver. They will never make it.
Later today, I will get on a plane to Vancouver. I will then fly to Toronto and on to Istanbul.
It’s a vacation we’ve been planning for a while, putting a bit of money aside here and there so we could see a country rich with human history and natural beauty. I’m looking forward to it.
For the price of a few paycheques and a few hours, I will travel the distance that this family never will. Then I will come back to Canada, a country that is mine by default alone. I didn’t earn my birth here. I didn’t make some grand decision that I would become a citizen of this country, though I certainly would if given the choice. It is pure luck that I have been given the opportunities I have, the right parents in the right place and the right time. People don’t choose to be born into privilege, and they don’t choose to be born into desperation. You are simply born, and wherever you happen to be when that happens sets your life on wildly different courses.
When I was three, I never clung to my father’s hand as the waters ripped us apart.
Soon, I will sit in a cushioned seat and fly across the water that took that child’s life.
* * *
This isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” post, or a “holy cow, I’m just waking up to these problems and so should you!” one, either. There is so much wrong with the world that it can be overwhelming trying to keep track of it all, or trying to decide how best to help. Everyone just do what you think is best, I respect that.
But this intersect, of the differences between my fortune and this family’s tragedy, has made a distant situation feel less distant and much more personal.
It’s not guilt at my privilege. It’s a stark awareness of it.
I will take my vacation, and I will enjoy my family and marvel at how amazing the world is, and how interconnected we are. And then I will come home and think of how lucky I am to be able to do so, and how I should never take it for granted, though I inevitably will. And I’ll try to help, a little more, with the efforts underway to give more people a safe home and family and a life that isn’t lost in the waters in an attempt to have just a little of what I have. I’ll still be privileged, and I still won’t do all that I could possibly do, and I’ll still spend money on frivolous things while other people struggle. I’m not trying to scold myself for anything and I’m not trying to absolve myself, either. It is what it is what it is. I’m lucky to be where I am in the world today. I wish more people could be so lucky.
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