I cannot get her face out of my mind. It’s not that I want to, it’s just that it keeps appearing – when I am at work, when I drive, when I eat, when I look at my children. I see her face. And it triggers a strong reaction every time.
She is not a child I know – neither a relative nor a friend’s daughter. Yet it seems I cannot forget her. I don’t know her name, yet it seems I cannot forget her.
I saw her for the first time a few days ago, posted as someone’s Whatsapp video status update. I cried. I watched it again, and kept crying. As I lay in bed catching up on social media for a bit, and my children safe and warm, asleep under blankets with a roof above their heads, the tears flowed. I could do little to stop them. This little girl who I have never seen before in my life had such an effect on me within seconds, that I cannot forget her face, and feel compelled to write about her.
She is a girl from a camp in Fallujah, whose face I will likely never forget!
It’s not because I thought she was adorable (because that she is), but because of her reaction to a few simple questions and because, despite threatening tears, she smiles. It is the smile of heroes, of the brave. It is a face that challenges every calamity in life with courage and a will to persevere. It is a smile, a reaction, that puts a lump in my throat every single time!
The video (Children’s Stories – Updates from the Fallujah Camps) posted by the Preemptive Love Coalition, shows the stories of children living in the camps in Fallujah. Their plight is clear, but even more so is their faith and their will to survive. The little girl whose face I cannot forget appears about 25 seconds into the video. She is recorded for barely half a minute, yet makes such a profound impact on me that I cannot forget her face. I keep seeing the way she tries to smile, brave, so brave! while the tears are evident and close to spilling. She puts a hand to her face as if she might break down – she is just a child after all! Just a child forced into the consequences of a war. War born out of greed, out of a lust for land and power.
I cannot fathom, I just absolutely cannot get my head around what it takes to destroy life so easily. To put people, children, on a path of hurt, devastation and suffering. I cannot comprehend how, when I feel for these children so deeply, when I wish I could reach out and hold them close, can people continue to wreak havoc, to bring destruction, to wield violence and massacre towns, villages and tear families apart. And I pray. I pray for those suffering the kind of horror many of us will be fortunate to never witness first hand. I pray for those raining terror to lose all the power they wield so easily and for all the wrong purposes. I pray for what can be attributed to the cliched beauty pageant as World Peace. But even a semblance of it, little slivers of it spread across the globe, is worth praying for.
A little girl, of 6, maybe 7, who reminds me in looks a little bit of my niece, and brings me very close to tears just thinking of her, stirs emotions in me every time. I don’t just pray. What this little girl also stirred in me in a sense of gratefulness that I know I do not consciously take stock of often enough. Yes, I am grateful for a lot of things, and even told myself to make a gratefulness chart for the family at home. But I do not take stock of all my blessings as often as I should. And it’s shocking to me, as I think of myself as a person of faith, to know I am not as absolutely grateful as I should be. I am not rich or famous, I don’t live in a mansion or have a shiny sportscar parked in the garage, I cannot shop ’til I drop or just dine out constantly. But it takes a little girl with the bravest of smiles and a courageous heart to make this adult woman utter thanks and really think about everything I have to be grateful for.
So, as I laid in bed the night I first saw her face on a Whatsapp video status, tears streaming down my cheeks, I prayed, and I felt and was grateful for so much: a roof above my head when barely a couple of kilometers away people protest for housing; for food when children across the world are picking food from the ground; for not being a mother who cries because she cannot feed her children; for my children when people cry from being barren; for the blessing of my parents when children, babies, are left orphaned; for my husband when women in war-torn cities are left widowed, for a comfortable vehicle when parents travel in the rain with children to get where they need to be; for the amazing organisations across the world who mobilise every possible resource to provide comfort, shelter, food and water to those in need; and I am grateful for having the faith that the war will end, no matter how long it takes, because the thought that nations can spill the blood of others indefinitely is too devious to consider.
So I take a deep breath now, steadying my emotions, another prayer in my mind and my heart for this little girl whose face I see in my mind again, and for those suffering the throes of violence and terror. There are so many images and videos I have seen, all evoking different emotions with different intensities, but the face of this girl in Fallujah is one that is etched in my memory – a reminder of the evils spawned from a lust for power, of the heartbreak suffered by the oppressed and vulnerable, of the need to reach out and help those in need in whatever way possible, of how short and precious life is, of the resilience of people to survive, a reminder of every little thing I take for granted each day that I need to be grateful for. To a little girl with an unforgettable face: my wish is for your future to be brighter, happier, than your present. To a child who smiles through heartache: you have no idea the impact you’ve made on me and I am sure on everyone who has seen your face; you may not know this, but in a few seconds you have shown the world what Courage Despite Tragedy looks like!
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” – Nelson Mandela
“If we are to teach real peace in this world, and if we are to carry on a real war against war, we shall have to begin with the children.” – Mahatma Gandhi
“Genocide is the responsibility of the entire world.” – Ann Clwyd