|Me and Samir in Samir's front yard. Mafraq, Jordan. October 2013.|
We sit on the living room floor. There is no furniture in the house, a structure that sits a few blocks from downtown Mafraq, 15 minutes from Syria's southern border. Samir's mother, Fatima, sits on the floor with the rest of us. She tells of leaving her home in Aleppa and bringing her family to Jordan. The Jordanians have been good to her but she has not seen her husband or her eldest son in months. Both remained in Syria when the rest of the family fled to Jordan. Fatima's other son, who is 18, battles behavioral issues brought on by the bitterness in what he sees as the unfairness of his family's new normal.
After hearing how the Syrian war has destroyed what had been a peaceful life for Fatima, who had worked as a seamstress in Syria, we wish her, Samir and Wafa well and make our way to a waiting car on the street.
It is hard to leave these people, knowing that what you do or write or say about them will likely amount to little if anything in their larger struggle. As I turn to leave, it is difficult to accept the simplest fact — that I will never see these people again.
Two hours later, after lunch with the priest at St. George's Church in Mafraq, the parish which, along with Caritas Jordan and Catholic Relief Services, hosts the school that welcomes hundreds of Syrian children every day, we began classroom visits in which both Caritas staff and even Syrian refugees-turned-volunteer teachers help educate the students. Syrians are huge on education. We walk into what would be our last classroom of elementary-age kids on this day.
My eyes scan the room. I am looking for children I might have seen in some of the pictures CRS had sent me before leaving for Jordan. I see none. Instead, on the far side of the room, alone, sitting at a 4-student desk by himself, is Samir. He looks up and sees us as we come into the room. A smile spreads across his face.
For a boy who had only three weeks earlier started in this particular school, and who only hours before had served his same classroom visitors six cups of tea in his humble home, it seems like this moment may well stand higher when stacked alongside other moments in Samir's life.
The Syrians forced to live in Jordan place different values on what is important in life than many Westerners do. There are no material goods here. Only the hope for love — a love that maybe puts a brighter shine on a child's day or for a mother missing a husband or son.
When you least expect that you might make a difference in someone's life simply by being a friendly face, you might be just what that person needs to get through the next rough spot. Like when you serve a glass of hot tea to a guest in your home.