By: Manon Van Doeselaar Den Hartog
All my life, I have only known prosperity. Given the circumstances I grew up and live in, there is no way I could ever really understand what a Syrian refugee, or any refugee for that matter, is going through.
In my life, I have only known prosperity. Even if my parents had a hard time making ends meet when I was younger, I never noticed anything. I grew up in a small town in peaceful Holland, where the crime rate was zero to nothing. As I grew up, economy was booming, I went to school, then went to college, had a few jobs to build on my resume and finally got where I am now. I have a good job, I work 32 hours per week (4 days). Even when I was between jobs for a few months last year, welfare took care of the gap in our income. My husband and I have a two year old son and we live in an even smaller town than where I grew up. It is safe and quiet and I’m sure my son has felt safe and secure every day in his young life.
Giving these circumstances I grew up and live in, there is no way I could ever really understand what a Syrian refugee, or any refugee for that matter, is going through. I don’t know what it’s like to be scared every day. Scared of bombings and shootings. Scared of a regime that takes away every bit of freedom you might have had in the past. Scared of never finding a job and there for have no money. Scared of not having food, clothes or water or a roof over my head. Scared of getting sick, because of poor hygienical circumstances, or scared of dying of hiv. I don’t pretend that I have the slightest clue what that feels like. But I can try to imagine.
I can try to think about what I would do if it were me. If I was living in Syria and some group of crazy terrorists were threatening the life of me and my family. Or were threatening to make us live according to their interpretation of the same religion. Or if I was living in a country where poverty is a daily struggle. Where there are no jobs even if you did get a college degree. What I would do?
I would get the hell out of there! I would literally sell my soul to get my family to a better place. Yes, I would risk our lives on a crooked blow up boat and get involved with shady smugglers just to get across the border. I would do anything in my power to give my children a better future. I think anyone would.
So when it comes to the question of what to do with all the refugees that that are flooding Europe at this moment, for me the answer is simple: We help them! Simply because if it were me, I would like a helping hand too. I would like someone to open their door for me and tell me everything is going to be ok, and I’m safe now. It is the human thing to do.
Even writing this, it sounds completely logical to me. There isn’t even the slightest doubt in my mind. But the sad truth is, that I am part of a minority group who believes this. I am ashamed to say that many fellow Dutch people are not as eager to help those in need as I am. Instead they are acting like every single refugee is either, a terrorist, a woman-hater, a pedophile or a bum that is only here to collect welfare.
We used to be a very tolerant nation. Especially since WWII, we swore to never let that happen again. But look at us now. People are screaming that there is no room for ‘gold diggers’. That we don’t want to bring in ‘all’ those Muslims, because they are trying to convert us all and in ten years all our women will be wearing Burka’s or Niqaab’s. They’re twisting facts and telling flat out lies about the circumstances these people arrive in. To me this sounds pretty similar to the Nazi propaganda from the 1930’s.
What is wrong with us? Where is the compassion that makes us human? Why is it so hard for people to see past the image of gold digging, unappreciative asylum seekers that the media portrays and just see the people in need. The men, women and children that are just hoping for a better chance at life. Who can blame them?
I have wondered about my role in this. I never pretended to be a saint or an idealist and I won’t start now. I don’t claim to have the answer to make everybody happy. But I do feel that if I speak out so loudly about helping refugees where we can, I should put my money where my mouth is. And so I will. I will open up my home and heart for those in need. I will try to collect goods they need, like food, clothing, toiletries, anything that can make them feel warm and welcome. I will make room for anyone who wants to come here to live freely and without fear. Because Freedom and Safety aren’t privileges reserved for those who are fortunate to be born in a country like Holland. They are a necessity that ANYONE deserves!