Can you Imagine?

It could happen here, too

When North Americans hear about the refugee crisis, it sounds so far away.  The most common response I hear is, “I cannot even imagine what it’s like”

We cannot imagine a situation so chaotic that we would leave without our passports, without a map, without a plan to go somewhere legally and safe.  We cannot imagine choosing which child you would carry onto a boat or across the desert – knowing that your hands can only hold one of them at a time.  We cannot imagine that our government would forget and ignore us.

But maybe the West Virginia Flooding or the failed evacuation of NOLA during Hurricane Katrina can give us a clue.  Sometimes, a disaster hits, and there is no warning.  There is no time to exit quietly, to plan a reasoned escape, to gather the prescription medications and the family photos, to empty the bank account and fill the car with gas, to charge your electronics and wear the right shoes.  Sometimes, we just have to run.

But I cannot imagine what that looks like.

I haven’t had to escape a storm, or flee an attacker.  My life hasn’t been threatened, and my government hasn’t disintegrated.  So even though I spend a lot of my time learning about why someone becomes a refugee, I cannot truly imagine what it looks like.

Alicia Keys imagined it for me.  For World Refugee Day, she and her team produced this amazing video:  What if it happened here?  What if California was the civil war?  What if my family was fleeing?  What would it look like?  This is about 9 minutes long, but worth your time.

I still cannot truly imagine what it is like to leave behind everything.  But I can imagine the relief of finding someone who is helpful and kind.  And I can hope to be that kind person at a point in the journey.

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