Since you are just five (and three-quarters) years old, it's a little hard to explain to you why I decided to take a trip somewhere far away. You are used to me traveling for work and as the only child of a single mom, who probably works more than she should, you are independent and confident enough to know that I'm always coming back. This trip is a little longer and quite different than anything I've done before, and I want to explain why I made this choice that takes me away again for a little while.
You and I have so many things that other people do not, and not just things that you can see and touch. We have a strong family that provides countless role models for how to treat one another with respect and love. We have a home unmarred by abuse, where people are dependable and considerate. We have healthy bodies and minds, which let us pursue our lives without giving much thought to either. We were born in a peaceful place, where we never had to worry about our safety. We are given the opportunity to pursue education and careers that provide a nice home. We do not know what it is like to be discriminated against for the color of our skin, the way we choose to practice religion or the place where our parents were born.
We have been given every advantage, though we did absolutely nothing to deserve it. We are no better, and no worse, than anyone else on the planet. We aren't farther ahead because we earned it — we simply drew a much better starting position. Our good luck is just that, and is not something of which to be prideful. In fact, it means we have an even greater obligation to share of ourselves with the world. Sharing ourselves doesn't mean simply giving material things, it means applying your energies and talents to make the world a better place, using your voice to speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves, being brave and showing kindness to everyone around you.
Contrary to popular opinion, the point of life is not to just get through it with the least amount of discomfort. It is in the challenges that we learn about our strengths, and at the dead-ends where we discover the depth of our creativity. Sometimes a great adventure may result in scars and a great love may end in heartache, but without opening yourself to the risk you can never truly know how wonderful life really can be. The scars will fade and your heart will heal, leaving you a little bit wiser and ready for whatever amazing thing comes next.
When you complain about something, you know how I ask you "Is that a problem or a solution?" Because 9 times out of 10, when you realize you are just stating a problem — you are pretty easily able to create your own solutions, even at just five and three-quarters years old. Solutions are often quite simple, though they may not always be easy or attractive.
There are people in this world who are not able to go about their peaceful lives without constant, very real, fear for their lives and their families. Many of those people live not too far from where your great-grandfather's family lived in Lebanon. These people saw the solution to their problem — they needed to leave their homes. These moms and dads, kids and grandparents, friends and neighbors, had to leave everything they knew behind, fully aware of the dangers their journey would present. It was not an easy decision and it was not something they wanted to have to do. Our world has a lot of imaginary heroes, but I have a hard time imagining anything more heroic, or more terrifying, than picking up your children and carrying them across mountains and oceans, looking for a safe place to call home. I would do that for you without a moment's hesitation, and I would hope that somewhere along the way, we would encounter someone willing to show us a bit of kindness and compassion.
And all of that brings me back to this trip. I'm going somewhere far away, to try and be a friend to some people who could really use one. I'm going because I know that each one of those mothers looks at their children the same way that I look at you: with hope, with love, and with a dream that they will grow up to live a happy and productive life. Of course, it would be easier for me to just wish someone else would do it — but solutions require actions far more than wishes. I'm just one person, but when a whole lot of individuals come together and take a stand, to say "I will not be afraid" and fight darkness with love and compassion, we make a better world for everyone.