A few weeks ago, I found my 2 year old studying an iconic national geographic cover photo of a refugee from Afghanistan. Without words, the girl in the picture tells the story of a time and place my son is too young to know or understand. A tattered shawl humbly covers her head, and the suffering in her beautiful eyes has broken the hearts of millions around the world.
We live in the southeastern United States — my child has not been exposed to the Muslim religion or culture. He’s never seen a woman in a burka or witnessed extreme poverty. I braced myself for what would surely be a difficult question about her strange clothes or the horrors written on her face with dust and dirt. But my sweet, sweet boy just giggled with delight. He pointed excitedly at the picture and squealed, “ASTRONAUT!!!”
I stood there for second, stunned and speechless. What a beautiful mistake. What a breathtaking innocence. How could I bring myself to correct him? How could I explain why this girl had no parents, no home, and no freedom?
Childhood is fleeting, I know. Soon the day will come when I won’t be able to protect him from life’s injustices. Soon (too soon) I won’t be able to look him in the eye tell him that everything is okay and the world is a safe place.
But for now. For now, he is my baby.
So I whispered softly in his ear, “If she wants to touch the stars, kiddo… I hope she gets the chance to try.”