I read The New York Times everyday.
Well, I try to at least.
As a busy college student, I make a conscious effort to recognize international news and not just the updates from the country in which I live.
I am writing this article in response to The New York Times Magazine’s recent series on child Syrian refugees, “The Displaced,” particularly the first piece of the three part series written by Susan Dominus.
I actually came upon it by accident.
I think it was the feature photo that drew me in: the camera focused on a strong-willed young girl standing in the midst of a mildly blurred, dusty, run-down tent settlement.
It was this story alone that made me realize how truly thankful I, and other Americans, should be to live in this country, specifically during this season of giving and gratitude.
Immediately after the Halloween festivities, November beckons in Thanksgiving (Remember? That holiday often overlooked by the premature Christmas commercials and holiday layaway?).
Most Americans celebrate this holiday with family dinners, pumpkin pies and afternoon football. Often, the only display of gratitude is making a paper hand turkey and half-heartedly writing items to be thankful for on its feathers.
The things we should be thankful for more often than not remain overlooked.
We’ve become so used to living a privileged life we often take advantage of what we have.
More than 30 million children have been displaced, according to The New York Times Magazine, due to the crisis in Syria, 12-year-old Hana Abdullah being one of them.
I found myself engrossed in Hana’s story.
The young Syrian girl barely remembers her childhood home in Mabrouka because she was forced to abandon it three years ago at the age of nine. She said she believes it has been reduced to nothing more than rubble.
To make matters worse, her youngest sister, Haifa, will never know her family once owned a Chevy or had air conditioning in their house.
At the age of five, she will believe they have always lived in the dilapidated tent settlement in Lebanon, enduring pain, turmoil, discrimination, prejudice and violence in their everyday life.
The Abdullah family can’t leave the settlement without getting sideways glances and looks. They are often accused of being members of ISIS by their Lebanese neighbors, merely because of the country they are from.
Hana wakes up everyday before the sun rises at 4 a.m. to pick fruits or vegetables in the fields to support her family. She comes home to the settlement to care for her younger family members, practically a 12-year-old mother figure.
She is still a child.
At the age of 12, I vaguely remember complaining about not having a cell phone, not wanting to go school, or stubbornly refusing to do chores. I hadn’t even given the roof over my head or the bed I slept in a second thought, and I rarely acknowledged the freedoms my country offered me. As much as I don’t want to admit it, I almost thought I was entitled to those privileges.
Now, as an 18-year-old, I find myself engulfed in the same insensitive culture, even though I wouldn’t consider myself an insensitive person. I perfectly understand there are others out there like Hana who have a life far more trying than my own.
I am aware the Syrian crisis has been and will be an ongoing battle. I acknowledge those in developing countries are suffering from hunger, lack of healthcare and borderline homelessness.
Yet here I am complaining that my “stupid” smart phone can’t send a message or keep a cell signal, that my MacBook’s battery dies far too quickly, or that my college dorm room is too small, drafty, or outdated.
This led me to the conclusion that the majority of Americans are too advanced for their own good—myself included. We have too much to realize what it would be like to have nothing. We have too many opportunities to realize what it would be like to have none at all. We have too much freedom to comprehend what it would be like to be restricted.
Despite this season of gratitude we call Thanksgiving, we often focus on all the wrongs and corruption in America. I’ve experienced that first hand around my own Thanksgiving table.
Am I saying America is some utopian society?
Not at all.
It still has its serious problems, and I wouldn’t dare undermine them. But in the grand scheme of things, our “first world problems” don’t compare to the hardships endured by children like Hana.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Beshr Abdulhadi‘s Flickr account.
Jordan Stovka is a freshman journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.