A Letter to My Sons: a little bit of happiness

Dear Alexandre, Dear Sam,

I’ve been in Gaza for three days now. This morning I travelled to the area of Middle Gaza to meet with teachers who were teaching human rights to children your age. What they had to say was really encouraging. Most of them did not know about human rights before, some openly said that they were afraid to teach human rights.  Why teach human rights, some asked, when our rights are being violated? What difference would it make?

A lot of the teachers said there was a difference among the children they taught. The children learned to respect each other, learned to respect their teachers, made sure the school was clean, became more confident at expressing themselves to teachers when something was bothering them, and plenty of other things. They also learned that they had duties as well. For example, a child has a right to be protected from violence, but if one child sees another one being bullied in the schoolyard, they have a duty – or a responsibility – to inform the teacher of what’s happening.
A lonely sight
In the end, if you teach children about human rights, they care more for each other. And it doesn’t matter which religion you believe in, which country you call home, the colour of your skin, where you live, whether you’re a girl or a boy, how rich your parents are, or anything else that defines you that should make you care more or less for someone else. If I were to ask you what’s most important in life, you’d probably say love or happiness or family and friends.

In a place like Gaza, the poverty is so astounding that it’s hard for me to find the happiness. It’s hard to see beyond the fields filled with garbage, the unfinished or torn-down buildings, the broken cars, the dead trees, the empty stores or the pathetic wooden stands by the side of the road with merchants selling a smattering of fruits. Nothing is new, everything is worn or dirty or broken or cracked. Everything I see is faded and blurry through the shaded bulletproof window of the vehicle I’m in. There was an infant playing alone in a pile of sand in front of an unfinished building; in an instant I felt a tremendous sadness at how lonely and pitiful that little girl’s life is now, and wondered what hope she would have in the future.
Yes we are having fun.
Later on, as I walked to a mosque with my friends, I came across a group of young boys who were sliding down large sheets of metal shaped like a cut pipe used to pour concrete. Not exactly a slide like the ones you play on back home. But they were happy. They smiled as I walked by and they repeated, over and over again, “Hello! How are you? What is your name? Hello? How are you? What is your name?” I don’t think they really cared what the answers were. But they smiled as they crawled up and down their makeshift slide, and I was relieved that I’d found a little bit of happiness.

Je t’aime Alexandre, je t’aime Sam.


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