I don’t know one single person whose soul didn’t break at the sight of 5-year-old Omran Daqneesh alone in the back of an ambulance in Aleppo, Syria. He was still and silent, but somehow didn’t seem surprised to find his house destroyed by a bomb and his family missing. I think his lack of tears was the thing that people commented on the most – as though in his version of a normal world, bombings and blood were things to be expected and suffered, things to be faced with acceptance as opposed to screaming indignation.
As the debate about Middle Eastern refugees rages around the world, with adults from every Western nation fretting about whether to take them, how many to take, and if they’ll pay with the lives of their own citizens, one small boy from New York saw Omran and grasped the bare truth: a sad, injured boy needed help – so we should help him.
Alex, who’s 6, wrote the following letter to President Barack Obama, which the White House posted to their Facebook page on Wednesday evening:
You should read or watch the whole thing* (with a box of Kleenex), but here are some highlights:
“We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar [sic]. We can all play together.”
You’ll also notice that he offers to study math and language with Omran, and that he and his family will be waiting with flowers, flags, and balloons when the President comes to drop him off.
President Obama read from Alex’s letter when he addressed the Leaders Summit on Refugees, which ran concurrently with the U.N. General Assembly, suggesting that sometimes world leaders focus too hard on maintaining their positions.
“And sometimes we forget that the only rationale for doing it is to help that little boy.”
The current refugee situation is, according to United Nations reports, the more dire it has ever been, with over 60 million people displaced worldwide. The White House has recently promised to increase the number of refugees accepted into the United States from the current 11,503 to 85,000 before the end of the year, and then to 115,000 in 2017.
The video detailing his letter has now been viewed over 7 million times and has generated thousands of reactions – which is to say, maybe a child will actually help change the world. Out of the mouths of babes, and all of that.
*Read the full transcript of Alex’s letter below
“Dear President Obama,
Remember the boy who was picked up by the ambulance in Syria? Can you please go get him and bring him to [my home]? Park in the driveway or on the street and we will be waiting for you guys with flags, flowers, and balloons. We will give him a family and he will be our brother. Catherine, my little sister, will be collecting butterflies and fireflies for him. In my school, I have a friend from Syria, Omar, and I will introduce him to Omar. We can all play together. We can invite him to birthday parties and he will teach us another language. We can teach him English, too, just like my friend Aoto from Japan.
Please tell him that his brother will be Alex who is a very kind boy, just like him. Since he won’t bring toys and doesn’t have toys Catherine will share her big blue stripy white bunny. And I will share my bike and I will teach him how to ride it. I will teach him additions and subtractions in math. And he [can] smell Catherine’s lip gloss penguin which is green. She doesn’t let anyone touch it.
Thank you very much! I can’t wait for you to come!
6 years old”
Now, where are my damned Kleenex?