5 Powerful Lessons From Salam Neighbor
Last night, my husband and I sat down and watched two documentaries on NetFlix. One of these documentaries is titled, Salam Neighbor.
“Poor people have big TV’s. Rich people have big libraries.”
– Jim Rohn
In efforts of giving you a deeper understanding of who I am and how my mind works, I share this personal statement on my relationship with television. I understand how limiting words can be without the expression of viewed non-verbal communication, so I feel that it is critically important for me to state this so you understand that I am not coming from a place of criticism for those who are different from me in regards to this. So…
For the most part, especially in these days that we are living in, I agree with Jim Rohn. Personally, I spend most of my time reading in efforts to grow as an individual. I read a lot. When Jim Rohn speaks on being “poor” and “rich”, I interpret this in terms of one’s wealth of knowledge. In the days of reality television, I think it is safe to say that one does not gain much in terms of wealth of mind through hours on end of television consumption. However, television can be a way to de-stress, laugh, and to “not think”, too. Actually, while in medical school, I can remember getting sucked into hours on end of Law and Order marathons! They’re just so addicting once you get started, aren’t they?! Despite my own past addiction, I now tend to be unable to sit for a prolonged period of time to watch television and for many reasons, including my two little ones who demand my time and attention, a preference to read, and an inability to actually get myself to sit down without my mind wandering to other things that I could (and should) be doing. For several other reasons, we’ve chosen to go without television for about 4 1/2 years now. Despite foregoing and saving money on television, we do have NetFlix and I do enjoy documentaries. When reading, I tend to gravitate towards non-fiction material too, so I suppose it is no surprise that I enjoy documentaries. Last night I had the opportunity (and patience) to actually sit still and watch two that impacted me deeply. My husband and I watched Living On One Dollar and Salam Neighbor, which are two documentaries created by a couple of really incredible young men. I am intrigued by human behavior and humanity, so whether through reading or watching a documentary, I feel that I have gained mindful wealth through these experiences, and the young men who created these documentaries did an amazing job of bringing others into lives of those that they took the time to live amongst.
In allowing you even deeper into who I am as a person, I also need to share about my personal sensitivities. Admittedly, I choose to avoid watching too much news or television for this reason, too. I am an empath, and this means that I am very sensitive to what I see and hear. I feel deeply, I sense the pain of others, and I can be consumed by feelings of wanting to fix the world. I realize that I am only one person, and this means that although my sensitivity is a gift, it is a gift that I must manage wisely. For this reason, I can also admit that my knowledge of the Syrian crisis and the events leading up to it are limited. However, despite my understanding of the inner workings of the historical aspect of this tragedy, I am with deep understanding of the human component involved. As an individual, I am gifted in regards to understanding people, seeing through exteriors, and feeling the depths of one’s being. SO MANY TIMES, others have shared with me that they “have never told this to anyone else” as they have trusted me with their deepest experiences, feelings, and fears. I suppose the gift that I have allows others to feel safe with me. Others tend to trust me because I do not come from a place of judgment but rather from a place of caring and personal interest in terms of understanding more about the journey of another.
So, with that said, documentaries which share the journeys of others, are highly interesting to me. Salam Neighbor was no exception and in watching, I made several observations and felt several powerful lessons were shared, which I’d like to share with you.
Salam Neighbor, which means “Hello, neighbor” and/or “Peace, neighbor” was the second documentary that we watched, but I feel led to speak on this one first. This documentary captured the experiences of Zach Ingrasci and Chris Temple as they lived amongst Syrian refugees in Jordan’s Za’atari Refugee Camp, which is only seven miles south of Syria’s border.
In watching this documentary, I took away some powerful lessons.
1. Syrian refugees are not much different than you and me.
Imagine your home, school, or church being bombed. What would you do? How do you stay in your home (or your country for that matter) when your world around you is on fire, exploding, and crumbling, when people around you are losing everyone in their family and becoming “a lonely man”, when you are witnessing sheer devastation to the land that you embraced? In listening and watching the stories shared within this documentary, I realize that these Syrian refugees did not want to leave their home. Unfortunately, life brought them this terribly tragic war and this extremely devastating evil, which uprooted them for the safety and love of their well-being and the fear of losing more of their loved ones. These people are hard-working, loving, and educated. These people are faith-filled and resilient. These people are saddened and at times numb by the extreme and hateful behavior that they have had to witness.
2. I relate to Syrian refugee mothers.
Images of mothers and children, named the biggest victims in all of this, touch me. I feel for these mothers who left Syria with only the clothes on their bodies and their children in tow, I feel for the mother who chose to live outside of a refugee camp because she wanted more and better for her children, so she worked harder to try and attain that in a foreign land, and I feel for the woman who couldn’t even care for her own children once arriving at the refugee camp because she felt so broken (for months). Our religions may be different, but I relate to the woman who shared that if it hadn’t been for her faith that she would have committed suicide. My own life adversity and my own acceptance of faith following trauma allow for a deep understanding of what she shares in this statement.
3. Syrian refugees nearly lost everything.
They lost material possessions, loved ones, their land, but despite what some may believe they did not lose everything. In times when your sense of identity is threatened due to immeasurable loss, it may seem that you have lost everything; however, if you can maintain your sense of hope and faith despite it all, then there is an opportunity to grow through the greatest of trauma. In witnessing just a short period of time within this refugee camp, it is amazing to see just how resilient the people of Syria are. It is amazing to see their faith and hope in action, and despite not sharing the same faith, I respect them and their faith, and I empathize with how their hope and faith have allowed them to not only survive, but grow and thrive despite unfavorable life circumstances.
4. Syrian refugees are not the Syrian government.
Syrian refugees are real people – human beings. Just as I do not want to be stereotyped by the decisions that my government makes, I cannot stereotype Syrians based on their government or the war that is destroying their land and people. As witnessed in this documentary, I see community, love, kindness, and generosity. I do not see the images shown on the news, which induces fear – so much so that people want to build walls to keep others out. I cannot live in fear and I cannot bring myself to hate these people who have already endured so much. I see both similarities and differences between myself and the Syrian refugees highlighted in this documentary, and I strongly believe that in respecting each other’s differences, we can truly embody being peaceful with our neighbors.
5. Syrian refugees have gained new opportunities.
Despite the tremendous loss that these Syrian refugees have experienced, they have also gained opportunities. Syrian refugees want to go home, they want to rebuild their land, and they are gaining opportunities to do so in the future. If I (personally) have learned anything from loss, it is that adversity allows for one to rebuild and grow stronger through the experiences that one is able to overcome. What is meant to destroy one, may result in being the catalyst for greater strength and positive change.
Salam, neighbor. Yes, let’s live in peace with our neighbors. As an individual and as a Mom to two innocent children, I remain hopeful for a more peaceful world – for them and for the children of Syria and all around the world.
If you have not yet seen this documentary, then I highly recommend you do. I hope in doing so that you too will allow your mind to expand and positively contribute to the change that this world so desperately needs – more compassion, more love, more understanding, less hate, less walls to keep others out, less turning away from those who are in many ways just like you and me.
I think what allows one the most wealth of mind are experiences like these – experiences where you can see similarities amongst those who would otherwise be feared simply because of what makes them different.
If you’d like to learn more about the men behind this documentary, then I also recommend visiting their website, http://livingonone.org/. I know that I look forward to their continued work to bring more awareness to the realities of life around the world.
Thank you for taking your time to join me here in this space. I hope that my writing serves to bring more peace and love to a broken world.
Until next time,