brothers and sisters


This morning, after dropping Alex to school, I stopped by Target to pick up some Christmas wrapping paper, and some household supplies.  I was in a pretty good mood, thinking about presents I'm planning on buying for Alex and Marcus, and other general make-merry-type things.  I checked out, and as I was putting my shopping cart back in the bay, I noticed a woman -- a Target employee -- speaking on the phone, in Arabic.  Even though I couldn't understand a word she said, she was clearly upset:  her voice was shaking, she had tears in her eyes and she looked panicked, like she was doing everything she could to hold it together.  

My first thought was that she was dealing with some sort of emergency.  My second was that there was an abusive partner on the other end of the line.  I started taking my bags out of the cart more slowly, lingering a bit and watching out of the corner of my eye to see if she needed help. 

She got off the phone, and saw me.  She quickly wiped away her tears, plastered on a big smile, and said, "Can I help you?  Are you okay?"

I smiled back and said, "I'm fine, thank you.  Are you okay?"

Her smile faltered a bit, but then she regained composure.  "I'm fine!"  Then it faltered again.  "I was talking to my family in Syria.  I was worried, because there was a big bomb ... but they're fine!  Thank God, they're fine. I was worried, but they're fine!"  Her smile quivered.

Me:  "I'm so sorry."

Her:  "I was so worried ... so worried.  But they're fine.  Thank God, they're fine."

I'm not going to lie -- I teared up as well.  I stared at her for a split second, not knowing what to do, and then, in desperation, I suddenly asked, "Can I hug you?"

She laughed through her tears.  "Yes! Please!"

So I hugged her.  "I'm going to say a prayer for you and your family."

"Oh, thank you," she smiled as she wiped more tears away.  "Thank you."  Then she returned to her work, and I turned to go to my car.

I can't stop thinking about this woman and her family -- here I am, just going about my daily, happy life, while this woman is frightened for her family, who are in imminent danger, thousands of miles away.  It doesn't seem fair.  I hope they're okay.

Despite all of our differences -- cultural, religious, racial, gender -- we're all riding this little planet together.  We're all brothers and sisters.  

And as the year comes to a close, may we all take a moment to remember this.


Soundtrack:  Peace on Earth/The Little Drummer Boy, as performed by David Bowie and Bing Crosby