Lost Boys

In my warm, safe home one morning, I read an article in The Washington Post that wouldn’t leave me. The dark eyes of two orphaned brothers stared at me from a world away.

Shamsul (8) and Jafar (11) once had a “loving family, a little house near a river, a worn soccer ball to play with and 15 cows for fresh milk” in their small village in Burma.

When the Burmese military entered their village spraying bullets into the air, the brothers ran to hide. They watched as soldiers beat their mother and three siblings, lock them into their home, and burn them alive. More soldiers shot their father. The United Nations has likened the Burmese military actions to genocide—targeting minority Rohingya Muslims.

Shamsul and Jafar fled the only home they knew, following a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims into India. The boys tried to stay together during the long journey. Along the way, Jafar got separated from his younger brother.  Then he saw Shamsul, who couldn’t swim, crossing a fast-moving river in an old dinghy with others. Afraid he would lose him, Shamsul dove in and swam as fast as he could, keeping his brother’s head in sight. He made it across the river and found his brother. Other, stronger swimmers drowned.

The boys’ luck—or as others called it, blessings from Allah—continued when they were reunited with their uncle and his family who managed to escape as well. They live together, with very little, in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. The uncle says a good day is when no children cry themselves to sleep at night.

Maybe it was the boys’ eyes. My own children have dark eyes. I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

The boys need warm coats. Their uncle, aunt, and their six children also need coats, food, and warm blankets. If you’d like to contribute—even a small amount—to this family, 100% of the money raised will go to supplies that will be delivered to family. Wouldn’t it be great to give the boys a new soccer ball as well?

I must thank Allison Joyce, the photo journalist who worked on the Post’s story, for agreeing to help me with this. With the money that we raise, she will buy and deliver the supplies to the family. Her work is incredible; please check out her website.

Thank you also to New Deli Bureau Chief Annie Gowen and The Washington Post for bringing the story of Shamsul and Jafar to our doorsteps here in the States.

To help Shamsul, Jafar, and their family, click here. And thank you!

The Kindness of Strangers

Happy New Year! It’s been a while since the last post. I think end-of-year relaxation and reflection got the best of us. But isn’t that what’s wonderful about the end of the year?

In January, we’re going to switch up our posts from subjects about introspective self-kindness to outward kindness toward others.

I live in the Avenues, which if you’re not from Utah, is the oldest neighborhood in Salt Lake City. Mature trees line the streets — sycamore, oak, maple, chestnut, and other ornamentals. Planted in the mid to late 1800s by Utah’s settlers, most aren’t native to my desert mountain state.

In my neighborhood, all walks of life mingle — college students who attend the University of Utah and share run-down houses, young couples in apartment buildings, professional couples in modern homes built on old lots, wealthy families who’ve restored grand homes from the early 1900s, and regular folks who live in smaller, historical homes. Single, married or divorced, gay, straight — of varied religions, race, and ethnicity.

The Avenues seem to invite diversity, activism, and most of all expression. You’ll often see signs in people’s yards. The other day while walking my schnoodle, George, I saw this sign:

Avenues Sign

And so I took a picture. Because kindness is everything. And I’m glad to live in a place where my neighbors welcome everyone who might pass by.