Breaking Open our Piggy Banks

Having kids has been a big curb on my activism. I’m not one of the mothers who was dragging my kids to protests in a sling or a stroller. I was lucky if I made it to the playground. For the past few years my focus has been homewards. It’s natural, I know, but lately I have felt more ready. Ready to act in a way I haven’t been for a long time.

Good thing because I am in Europe, and Europe is in crisis. This past month I have been flung, (or have flung myself) into direct action with local Syrian families near my home in the Languedoc Region of France. My friends and family all know this as I’ve been posting and emailing updates here and there, requesting funds, sharing petitions and heart wrenching accounts from the trenches of other regions. I’m online a fair amount for my work, but most of the times I’m pretty strict with myself around when is family time and when I can be on my phone or computer. Not recently.

This means, of course, that I have barely done the dishes in a month. Barely played Chutes and Ladders (ok, I don’t mind either of these.) My husband has picked up the most of the slack, picking up the kids from school and not picking up a lot of crap in the living room. And while I’ve been woefully neglecting my privileged little kiddos, I am reminded of how much they learn by watching and listening to us.

My seven year old has been deeply curious about the work I’ve been involved in lately. Like you’d expect, I get a lot of questions. And most of them are right on.

“Why can’t we just give them a home?” “How long does a war last?” ”Mom, why don’t we just take them shopping so they can choose their own groceries….?” “Can’t they just give us a shopping list so we make sure to get the food they like?”

And this morning as she crawled into bed with me for a cuddle, the first thing out of her mouth, “Mom, how many refugee children are there? “

“Why sweetheart? In the world or in Béziers?”

“Here, in Béziers.”

“about 15–20 I think, why?”

“Because I want to share my money with the kids.”

I headed down to make my first coffee of the morning, and shortly after she traipsed into the kitchen with a plastic bag with half of her piggy bank. She had convinced her little brother to share half of his too, no small feat. A few hours later I delivered the ten euros in change to my neighbor who was driving up to Alès with one of the families we had met in Béziers. They had just received government housing and my kids had met their kids last week. “Five euros each” my daughter instructed me, “for my new friends to buy something they like in their new home.”

We hear a lot of about how we need to disconnect and pay attention to our kids. But what about when we are connected because we’re connecting with something larger than ourselves, larger than our own immediate families. We’re giving them a chance to see beyond their own houses. To understand that they can share what they have. That the world isn’t always fair but they can do their part to make it better. And if not, as one of my colleagues here said, “We can always start a Facebook group for these poor, neglected kids.”

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