The recess bell rang and what seemed like hundreds of children streamed onto the playground on a bright sunny afternoon in the Bekaa Valley. I apparently looked suspect because a bunch of kids headed right over to me probably in an attempt to figure out who this random lady on their playground was.
This day, I was hanging out at the most amazing school I have ever stepped foot in - and y’all I was a teacher who has been to tens of schools (maybe like 50ish) - and nothing I have ever seen compares to this place.
The purpose of this school is to help Syrian refugee kids’ transition into the Lebanese school system.
It’s a super simple building - an old paint factory that they converted into a school - but the classes were vibrant and the teachers were by far the most passionate teachers I have ever encountered, like ever.
You see, the staff and teachers are also largely Syrians who came to Lebanon to escape the certain death of war in their nation. They had fled the unimaginable, they understand what their students have been through.
The energy in every single classroom was amazing; I have never seen so many kids fully engaged during a full 45 minute math class - seriously.
So on the playground, many of the kids crowded around my husband and I with grand smiles and tons of high-fives and fist bumps.
It was there that I met Mariam.
Mariam is around eleven and this girl had a serious spark in her eyes. I could tell that she was a bold adventurer as she pushed through the crowd to come talk to me.
After introducing herself and showing me who all of her siblings were, Mariam was full of questions, she was awesome.
While we were talking she saw a bit of my tattoo under my sleeve and with big eyes she took my arm, pulled up my sleeve, and looked intensely at my forearm.
“Beautiful!” she said.
Then with a ton of excitement she showed me her wrists and said “me too!”
Carved into her little wrists was an M and an R in English letters.
She was clearly proud of her “tattoo” as she motioned to show me that she had carved it. I asked her what it meant.
“My name.” She responded.
I tried to ask her more but with our mutually limited language skills, I didn’t get too far.
She then grabbed my hand and pulled me over to this hot metal slide. After kicking all the boys off, she asked me to come up.
So I climbed up that the ladder to that shiny piece of metal and with a lot of laughter all around, I flew down and completely wiped out!
You see, though Miriam is clearly a bad ass, she is still just a kid. A kid that in her little over a decade on this planet has gone through more than most of us will know in a lifetime.
I don’t know why she cut her initials into her wrists. I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe it was an attempt to release some of the pain she may hold inside or maybe it was an effort to simply be seen in a world that is blinded by ignorance. Honestly, that thought breaks my heart into a million pieces.
No child in this universe should have to go through what millions of Syrian children have faced for years now.
The thing is, they don’t have to live a life of exclusion and unimaginable hardship - we have every resource to open our doors.
But we don’t. In our purposeful ignorance, we choose not to see beautiful young girls like Mariam. We choose not to see the amazing souls who are directly hurt because of our blatant refusal to extend love.
This March we will be heading back to Lebanon to serve, love, and learn from some of the most beautiful souls on this planet and I would like to formally invite you to come with us and have your heart changed, shattered and rebuilt, in the most amazing way.
Seriously, if this interests you, shoot me an email at Sherifaye@purplehyacinths.org and I will send you the details.
Y’all, this is the kind of trip that can spark a revolution in our own nation, a revolution we desperately need in this broken world, a revolution to let love win.