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“They have nothing!”

I gaze at this small, white haired figure.

Her voice, which still carries a trace of a French accent, is full of sorrow and empathy. Her eyes are distant. In her mind, she is replaying the video of the Syrian refugees who seem to have stirred up so much controversy between the political parties. While she is cognizant of the political rhetoric, in her mind, there is no controversy. She simply sees people who are exhausted and desperate, with empty hands.

She knows.

She too, fled from her home in northern France years ago. It was the spring of 1940, only the threat came in the form of grey-green uniforms, of military jeeps and German Panzer tanks. I wonder if she remembers the rumble of the Luftwaffe flying overhead or the thunder of mortar shells exploding.


Die Flüchtlingswagen sind hoch beladen mit den wenigen Habseligkeiten. Frankreich, bei Gien. 19.6.1940
Die Flüchtlingswagen sind hoch beladen mit den wenigen Habseligkeiten.
Frankreich, bei Gien. 19.6.1940

“Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1971-083-01, Frankreich, französische Flüchtlinge” by Bundesarchiv, Bild 146-1971-083-01 / Tritschler / CC-BY-SA 3.0. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 de via Commons –,_Frankreich,_franz%C3%B6sische_Fl%C3%BCchtlinge.jpg#/media/File:Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1971-083-01,_Frankreich,_franz%C3%B6sische_Fl%C3%BCchtlinge.jpg

I finally catch her eyes. “You understand.”

“Yes, but what I went through was nothing. These people—These people have nothing.”

I can’t seem to form words. She left her home on foot. Her family had no car. There was no time to pack suitcases. And they had nowhere to go. How was this easier?

I shake my head, not comprehending. How could I? I have only ever left my home by choice. I’ve never lived in fear of someone breaking down my door and threatening my family. The only times I’ve ever slept outside, I had the protection of the family tent, and I indulged in the convenience of an electric outlet and a restroom with flush toilets and hot showers. I am ashamed to admit that I get “hangry” when I can’t eat at regular intervals; I have never known the pain of a truly empty stomach.

As I drove home, I wondered: what can I do? I am so far away, and I feel so bogged down by the daily responsibilities of my life here in the United States.

I may not be able to help in a direct way, but perhaps there are things I can do. I can share what organizations like Samaritan’s Purse are doing for the people of Syria, as well as victims and refugees all over the world. I can share my friend’s story, as well as her compassion. And I can join my friend in prayer for these people.

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