World Airways Commercial from 1985 starring George Burns

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Friday, August 11, 2006

Refugee

Recently I flew refugees of Lebanon. I helped old women to the bathroon and kept a steady stream of tissues to a quietly sobbing young mother. I learned what it is to be a refugee. I learned this from children. Rayane is 10 and Leah is 9. Melanie is three and she has the eyes of a beaten puppy. She rests on my hip as we walk down the aisles singing softly. She speaks only French so we sing Frere Jacque because it is the only french I know. Rayane tells me what it is like to sleep on the ground with strangers at a fair ground for days. And Lea describes the process by which she chooses which few of her belongings might fit inside of her knapsack. Elise is 8. She clings to my waist and tells me over and over that she loves me. And old women kisses my hand as she boards the plane.

Many of these people have no idea where they are going. They arrived very late at night into Atlanta without any idea of what comes next. Some have family and friends to stay with. But many more ask me where california is. They ask me what I know of Boston or New York. When they talmk to me of Minnesota I try and stear them back to the warmth. They are a warm blooded people. The children ask me about snow.

I give them what I can. I give them countless glasses of water and juice and all of the food and chocolate I can find. I listen quietly to those who need to talk. I hold babies and sing. I softly stroke the hair of the scared little girl and I hold the arm of the old women as she stumbles slowly and painfully to the dirty bathroom. But then I go back to my nice clean hotel room and have a glass of wine. And I wonder if there was anything more that I could have done and I wish that there were.

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