The Duty of Kindness to Strangers
One quiet summer afternoon, several years ago, when my son was three years old, we went to the local neighbourhood library. There he played happily with a huge pirate ship set out on a low table filled with colourful blocks and wooden puzzles at the children’s section.
Soon a little girl his age came along and as they played side by side, my young child turned and gave her a hug as a sign of his affection and friendship. The little girl froze and let out a piercing scream. Stunned, my son stumbled back, his little face quivering with confusion as he battled with his own tears.
Helpless, I looked to the little girl’s mother who was nearby, hoping that she would reassure her screaming child nothing untoward had happened. Instead, the mother simply turned towards me and declared, “I have taught my child that no stranger should ever touch her.”
My heart is pierced even now reliving this incident. Grieved. That we can even begin to consider a 3-year old child as a stranger. Someone to be shunned. To be wary of. Just because we do not know his name. Just because he looks different. Just because he is not one of our own.
I am thinking of another 3-year old today. His name is Aylan Kurdi. He was from Syria and was on a boat with his father, mother and his older brother Galip, 5, together with other illegal immigrants when they capsized in the Mediterranean Sea.
His little body washed up on shore.
Even in death, one could see that he was loved. His father must have tied his young son’s shoelaces up before they left for that all important journey. His mother must have picked out his best clothes for the day when they woke up that morning. What hopes and dreams this young family must have held in their hearts to have made this perilous journey.
Is this little one a stranger too?
Have we really come to this as a humankind? To fend off those who are merely asking for a pinch of our hospitality? Could we really have become so hardened in our hearts that we allow strangers as young as three to drown in our seas?
My heart boils with a grief I cannot describe. That we have allowed strangers in our midst to perish. Just because we do not know their names. Just because they look different. Just because they are not our own. For strangers are to be shunned. To be wary of.
Even if this stranger was just 3-years old.
“I ask you not to think only of yourselves. Be kind to the strangers, whether come they from Turkey, Japan, Persia, Russia, China or any other country in the world…. After all, why should any foreign people be treated as strangers?
Do not be content with showing friendship in words alone, let your heart burn with loving kindness for all who may cross your path.
Oh, you of the Western nations, be kind to those who come from the Eastern world to sojourn among you. Forget your conventionality when you speak with them; they are not accustomed to it. To Eastern peoples this demeanour seems cold, unfriendly. Rather let your manner be sympathetic. Let it be seen that you are filled with universal love. When you meet a Persian or any other stranger, speak to him as to a friend; if he seems to be lonely try to help him, give him of your willing service; if he be sad console him, if poor succour him, if oppressed rescue him, if in misery comfort him.
In so doing you will manifest that not in words only, but in deed and in truth, you think of all men as your brothers.” – Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks 1911
Please, let there be no more strangers in the world.
(The International Organization of Migration (IOM) believes the number of migrants dying in Mediterranean Sea crossings could hit 30,000 this year if the current rate continues.)
For more ways on how you may help the refugee crisis and migrants seeking help in Europe, please visit this link sent by my dear friend Kitty over at The Daily Round.
Beautiful post. Thank you. ❤ Aleya
Thank you for sharing. Very very well said.
Oh, Sharon, I so agree with you, and, as always, you’ve expressed so beautifully what’s been banging around in my heart and spirit regarding these poor seekers of peace and comfort. It’s especially devastating, I think, because we have enough: room, food, clothing, intelligence and creativity. We could solve this, working together. Thank you for doing what you can to remind us that our call and responsibility as humans is first and foremost, kindness and open arms.
Dear Kitty, it somehow made my heart feel less alone when I heard from you. Thank you for inspiring me in so many ways that you show kindness to this earth and all who live in it. Sharon x
PS: This may help, somewhat: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/5-practical-ways-you-can-help-refugees-trying-to-find-safety-in-europe-10482902.html
Dearest Kitty, please may I add the link you have sent me to the post so that others may have direct access to ways they can help. Thank you so much. I feel your heart with me… Love, Sharon
Oh, of course! 🙂
Poignant post that stirs me to sadness for the state of the world. May we offer kindness to strangers near and far, young and old. Thank you for your kindness Sharon. blessings, Brad
I woke up today in Mandalay, Myanmar… and read your post. Being away from my family is already hard enough. To lose them so tragically would be devastating. Your words gave me a new perspective, a face to these refugees and I found myself sobbing and praying for this precious family. Thank you for reminding us how blessed we are…and that it is a privilege to share what we have with those who are less fortunate. Thank you for being my inspiration. I’m so proud of you, Deshan and Sam. Lots of love – JK.
This was the most difficult post for me to write. I had never felt my heart so heavy. Yet, I never want to forget Aylan and the faces of these people I have never met. For in a way, I have met them. For I see myself in them. And perhaps having a broken heart is a sign of hope. Thank you for standing up for those who can’t and for showing me how it’s done. Counting the days till we meet! Plenty of love to the girls X
A beautiful and powerful post. I’m not liking this world we live in lately.
Thank you for putting another face on these refugees, and their perilous plight. We need to remember that they really don’t want to leave their world, but have no choice; they are being forced out by the world’s lack of political will to help them.
We refuse to help them save their own country, then we turn the other cheek of cruelty by making their lives hell trying to get to a better life.
Its not only the US, but the world in general, and its inhabitants, that have become cruel and heartless.
Your post brought tears to my eyes.
My dea Barney, I can see that you have been following closely the situation in Syria and how we have failed them on so many levels. The crisis is far from over but perhaps this will mark a turning point. I feel your heart… Hugs, Sharon
So sad but such a beautiful post. Thank you for writing such a moving piece and sharing it with the largely-apathetic denizens of the internet. Perhaps more posts like these will begin to shift that culture of by-standing and apathy.
This verse is very close to my heart and I share it with you knowing that its message will resonate with you dear Alainafae. “Only small men discriminate saying; One is a relative; the other is a stranger. For those who live magnanimously, the entire world constitutes but a family.” – Maha Upanishad Chapter 6 verse 72. To the shift. Big hugs, Sharon
Reblogged this on A Vital Recognition and commented:
This is a story of vital recognition.
Thank you for once again reminding me as to our interconnectedness, our one-ness. There is no Them versus Us. Only We. We can do so much good together. If we use our hearts to see.
Such a thoughtful piece of beautiful writing and an important message. (I feel sorry for that little girl growing up like that – wonder what kind of psychological problems she’ll develop later on… or maybe when she’s grown up, we’ll live in a cyber world where human contact isn’t going on anyway!?)
The photo above is of my son who was 18 months old at that time in Sri Lanka. We were walking along the beach in Colombo when we came upon a hut amidst a stretch of litter and rubble. A little girl stood at the entrance of this tiny broken house and gave us a huge wide smile as if she had been expecting us. My son and this girl became instant friends as they romped around on the beach, giggling and poking among the litter. Nothing was said but the warm affection they showed each other shone like the sun. That is how our world should be. That is how I think all children must be like. That is how we must be like.
I wish we didn’t change when we grow up…
Let’s not! xxx
Yes yes yes! I was just saying to my husband yesterday, should we take in a Syrian family? What a tragedy is unfolding. Thank you for writing about it.
That would be wonderful Amrita! Thank you for your support in so many ways! Hugs, Sharon
Reblogged this on mybeautfulthings and commented:
I have been following this lovely blog for several years. In this beautiful post, Sharon echoes many of my thoughts and the heartache that we share about the refugee. Be kind to each other, fellow humans. Thank you, Sharon.
Thank you so much dear, faithful friend. Sharon
strangers into friends 🙂
so true – where is our humanity
So heartfelt, beautiful and wise…thank you Sharon.
So good to hear from you Susan. I’m not able to access your link from your name. Do post your link here! Thank you! Sharon x
It’s a lovely post be it has little to do with the way anyone looks or who they are and it has everything to do with MONEY. Now days, that’s all that seems to matter. If they were rich, they would be saved, no matter who they were. Something is very wrong.
Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful post. I believe that a ‘universal love’ is necessary in our society today. We should be openminded to accept people for who they are, no matter where they come from. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint on intercultural competency. If you don’t mind, I would like to share your post. 🙂
Dear Ai, thank you for writing. Please go ahead and share the post. With my warmest wishes. Sharon
This is a beautiful post and I agree with you so much.
Dear Ute, so very good to hear from you. Sending your and your bear a very warm hug! Sharon
Thank you Sharon, we love hugs, lovely big ones back to you! Ute
This is so touching and beautiful Sharon. The message is one to be absorbed into all of our being … until we get it in our mind body and soul … and not just our head.
Thank you 🙂
Dear Val, it did my soul good to get this message from you. In the anguish of writing this post, the friends who came along to support the cause of compassion, unity and oneness became a healing balm. Blessings to you. Sharon x
Reblogged this on Find Your Middle Ground and commented:
Sharon over at a Leaf in Springtime has captured so beautifully the essence of kindness to strangers, 3 year olds and the plight of migrants. ❤️
Something that we need to be reminded of. We are becoming disconnected from humanity.
A wonderful message, eloquently conveyed. Aylan’s legacy may well yet prove to be of great historical significance, and in this I hope. The response of European citizens to the refugees arriving on their doorstep has been deeply impressive for the most part. Let us hope the politician’s follow the lead of the people. As an aside, I wrote a somewhat similar post on the tragedy: http://wp.me/p4wkZJ-d5 Best regards, and in gratitude, Hariod.
Dear Hariod, so very sorry for this late reply. Your message touched me and I too hope that while the death of Aylan represents the greatest indifference of our world, may it also become the greatest turning point of our world. Thank you so much for sharing your post with me. With warm appreciation, Sharon x
Thank you Sharon. Hariod ❤
Thank you Sharon. This is a message we need to own deep in our being. The spirit of humankind calls for far more kindness than what we collectively exhibit at this time.
It’s such a pity to call a three-year-old a stranger. I don’t teach my pupils that way. Nowadays most of the people are treating those around with coldness and that’s what I can’t stand for. I felt heartsick seeing the body of the boy lying on the shore on the paper. It’s really shocking me. I can’t imagine what this world would be in the years to come. To change the world, the Man should start loving and caring for each other.
The surest way to make this world a better place is to teach our children compassion to all. As parents, as teachers. That right from their earliest childhood, they are only accustomed to the ways of kindness. I am so glad to know that you teach your students the most important lesson of kindness. Thank you so much! Wishing you meaningful days in your classroom! Sharon
Sharon children usually except each other no matter how different they all are, it is a sad thing when the parents instil such negativity on one so young. I believe we should treat each other how we liked to be treated. Hoping we can raise children who will embrace our diversity and accept that difference is the magic that can teach us many things in this world.
You are absolutely right. I think the most powerful way to make this world a better place is to raise our children to see the world with caring eyes. To see that life is sacred. Magic. And to acknowledge the sacred in ourselves is to acknowledge the sacred in another. It is always so good to hear from you my dear Kath. Sharon xx
This is beautiful, shared it on Twitter.
Thank you Amy! Hugs, Sharon
Hi Sharon! I feel totally the same way as you! I would like to share this on Facebook! I feel so much about the situation of the migrants and especially for the innocent children that i MUST get up and do something (besides giving money, besides trying to Teach the Faith)… have to find a way to help hands on! / As I am in Greece where thousand come, I am searching for ways to help… Love and prayers! Beautiful article!
Hugs to you my lovely Susan!! I feel your compassion across the miles. I just know that when you are open to be a vessel of help and blessing, how can that prayer not be answered! Love, Sharon x
Hi Sharon, I’ve been thinking of you, and stopped by for a visit. Your blog is truly gorgeous ! How I envy how it looks, and the beautiful images and posts that you’ve shared here.
I hope all has been going well with you and wish you a beautiful weekend. Emily
Dear Emily, so very touched by your kind feedback and your visit!! A most wonderful affirmation to wake up to this beautiful Sunday morning here in Helsinki! We are all doing fine and now that school has started, I am slowly making my way back to blogging again. Sending you my warmest blessings. Thank you for the beauty you open our eyes to every time. Hugs, Sharon
Thank you for this post. As heartbreaking as it is, it is also a good reminder to be open…in our hearts and in our borders…to those who seek our kindness and those who do not.
Sharon, thank you for this lovely post. How very sad – how tragic – for that little girl innocently playing and hugged by your son – who has been taught at such an early age that all strangers are to be so deeply feared. She will no doubt grow up to add to the prejudice against others and the misunderstanding of the plight of anyone “not her.” And how tragic – that there are so many in the world unable to comprehend the heartbreak and needs of others. Reminds me of these words, “Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me.” More in this world need to sing.
Hope you’re well. Jeanne
So beautifully written. That quote is so strong. Just what we need to hear and what we need to teach our children.
Thank you Ruth and so good to hear from you! Sharon
It is heart wrenching to see so many make a perilous journey and be met with less than human understanding and kindness. Thank you for sharing your story and your thoughts. The world’s children are the children of all of us.
Dear Mark, it did my heart good to hear from you! I have been busy and had forgotten what power lies in the encouraging word from a friend. I know your kindness extends to those whose names you do not know. We are currently hosting a refugee in our home. And while many may think we are doing a good thing, I know we are the ones being blessed. We are the ones being saved. Sharon
Reblogged this on Radiating Blossom ~ Flowers & Words.
I love it, and I love the photo! 🙂
You recognised the little boy in this photo! 😀 Love you x
Thanks for sharing such a lovely and inspirational article!
This is beautiful! I love your voice.
Thank you Sam! Sharon
I love this beyond words…
So very lovely to hear from you Kathy! x
That underlying emotion, fear, shuts us off from others and the world and generates a lot of irrational and ugly emotions in its wake.
So poignant. I’m touched by your compassionate heart.
Thank you so much for taking the time to visit and to leave me this wonderful message. Blessings. Sharon
Sorry that my comment is so late, I know this was written some time ago – I just wanted to commend you on a brilliant piece & I hope your son hasn’t been hurt by that incident. We are all people, when we start creating exclusions in the mind, that is where injustice begins. Thank you, for an insightful and very well-written piece 🌸
Thank you so much for taking the time to reach out to me. And for leaving such a thoughtful and kind message. I so wholeheartedly agree with your comment that we are all people, one people and to distinguish and to exclude is a grave injustice indeed. We are all learning to make this world a better place – even if others do not share the same belief. I try my best to teach this to my son. Thank you so much for your care! I would love to hear from you again. Keep well. Blessings dear one.
What a poignant read. It is scary today how we treat others who appear different to us. I know I too am wary and shy of new people things and ideas.
Here in Switzerland I am much aware of the troubles that migrants are enduring as they seek refuge here in Europe, not only in our country and cities but in our villages, even the one I live in.
It is hard to accept change and to remember that once, I too was a migrant, and how I once felt and still feel in this partly still strange land.
Thank you for your constant reminders of what is really important, love and humanity.
I think you spoke my thoughts Jodie. I too am still finding my footing in this land and learning to bloom where I am planted. So much to share. It will take a blog post! 😀 Thank you so much for coming over and sharing your thoughts here. It always means so much. Blessings and may our hearts always burn with loving kindness to those who cross our paths. Hugs xx
Bloom where you are planted. Yes that is a lesson I am learning slowly. Not so much in Switzerland, as I have lived here 11 years and feel more at home here now than in Bermuda, but at home in this suburban village where I live. I have struggled to accept it for the last few years and struggle to accept that not everything can be your perfect ideal. Yes, blessings to you too, for I get a lot out of reading your blog!! I have a friend I can talk to about these things, religion, beliefs, spiritual issues, but it is nice to learn about your own beliefs and view point on things. It is refreshing.
Well said, and very much needed to be said. Thank you.
Reblogged this on Making Life an Art and commented:
Came across this post on Aleya’s blog and felt compelled to reblog it. Well said, and much needed.