Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A little perspective

I’ve lived a sheltered life.

This weekend Abu Dhabi is hosting the Red Bull Air Race, and today the pilots are making practice runs through an obstacle course setup in the harbour along the Corniche. My office is nearby, so all day we’ve been listening to the sound of prop planes making the circuit. I flippantly remarked to my colleague that it sounded like we’re being attacked, like an air raid. And he said “except it is not followed by the sound of shelling.” And I realized (and instantly regretted my comment) that he was speaking from experience. See, he is a Palestinian who lived in Beirut for most of the 15-year Lebanese Civil War.

My first exposure to war other than in history books was when my 5th grade class made yellow ribbons to support the troops during Desert Storm. The most personal war has ever felt to me was to witness the 9/11 attacks...on TV...from 2000 miles away. But this man who has the office next to mine has lived and breathed war. He knows what it feels like to run for cover. He remembers the way the buildings shook when a missile passed by, the fine dust covering everything in the hospital when he found his brother, who had been injured by shrapnel in a blast but thankfully not killed. He remembers the fear of not knowing who had not survived.

He is only the second person I’ve ever known who has been a civilian on the front lines of war, and he is the first to talk to me openly about it. War literally tore his family apart and they are now living scattered around the world, citizens without a country. With his passport much of the world is closed to him. Yet he is able to laugh about how his college buddy slept right through the worst of the bombings, feet propped up on the table, snoring like a buzz saw. He is able to talk to me about the necessity of teaching his children about peace. The resilience of human beings is astounding. I’ve had a couple of days this week where I’ve felt sorry for myself for one reason or another – Now I can hardly remember why.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, Shannon. I really appreciate your honest and thoughtful reflection. I agree that humans are amazingly resilient ... I was thinking something similar the other day. At the church where I work there are some amazingly generous people who are at the church almost every day, volunteering their time just to do stuff that needs to get done around the church. I thought to myself, "Wow, people are so awesome!"