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If I want to raise better humans, I have to talk to my kids about Aleppo

Susan Santoro

I’ve always believed that it’s vital to help people in my community. Sometimes my community is my neighborhood, sometimes it’s thousands of miles away, and other times it encompasses the entire earth. Taking action to help others is a value that I purposefully work to teach my children every day. With all the news about the humanitarian crisis in Aleppo, Syria, I find that I am having deep conversations with my three children about how to help. We’ve had these types of conversations many, many times in the past. Each time, with each new situation, we add another layer of understanding, compassion and action. Replying to a crisis with action is an important trait that I strive to teach my children because compassion without action is pointless.

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A compassionate response can take many different forms. Action encompasses intellectual, emotional and physical action. Depending on the age of my children and the magnitude of a crisis situation, it can range from working to understand the situation and needs, to traveling to a location and working to help. All these actions are equally valuable. Learning to determine our response to new situations (we can’t always go to physically help in the situation) is also a skill I work to teach my children.

The situation in Aleppo is truly heartbreaking on so many levels. We’ve begun reading and talking about the factors that are contributing to the crisis. By understanding the historical, political, geo-political, cultural, religious and humanitarian issues involved in Aleppo, my family can better determine what actions we can take that will be helpful to the Syrians, and are realistic for our capabilities. While we may want to fly to Aleppo and bring every family home with us, that is just not realistic. But there are still many actions that we can do that will help. Our research and learning is valuable because understanding the Aleppo crisis not only helps now, but will also facilitate our understanding of future situations. I make sure that in our talks I point out issues that apply universally as we discuss how they apply specifically in Aleppo.

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As a family we will be contacting the White House, our senators and congressional representatives. Sending that email and making that call can help shape our country’s policy. We will make financial donations to help Syrian refugees. Together we will research which agencies are helping in Syria and which ones will provide the most direct assistance. We will pray for the people of Aleppo and the situation daily. We will continue to follow this crisis in the future, so that we can continue to help as the crisis evolves.

The conversations we’re having about Aleppo, the process we’re working through to determine our responsive actions and then taking those actions are equally important as a framework to teach my children how to respond to every day crisis situations. I don’t use the term crisis lightly, but sometimes a crisis is as (unfortunately) common as a child being bullied in gym class, and sometimes a crisis is of the magnitude in Aleppo. I endeavor to teach my children to respond to both. So while we are taking action to respond directly, I’m also making certain to use this time to build the awareness, compassion and the ability to respond in my children so that they can stand up and take action in any crisis situation. Looking the other way is heartless and cowardly. Talk is cheap. Handwringing is pointless. I am working to nurture people who know how to and will intervene to help those in need. And I profoundly hope that through awareness, understanding and action, there will be many fewer crises in the future.

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