*Thoughts after the attacks in Paris, November 2015*
When I was a young girl, back in Peru, I had a pen pal, a girl from Paris called Anne Marie. I remember her name because it was similar to mine. We exchanged letters, in English, because she couldn’t speak Spanish, and I couldn’t speak French. Our English was decent enough to allow us to ask questions and make simple statements. I don’t remember a lot of what we shared, but I remember a picture she sent: a young girl of long face with olive skin, shiny brown eyes and a roman nose. Her brown hair was pulled to the side in a coquette pony tail, tied with a white bow. I saved her picture in a box with many of my other childhood treasures. I wish I had it today, but I lost it years ago.
Today I think of her and wonder if she still lives in Paris. And if she has a family. Was she out last night on a date night with her husband? Was she home watching in disbelief the horror happening in her city? Did she have an open door to help strangers? Is she safe? Are her children safe?
Often times, when I wrote those letters, I did it under the light of a candle. In Lima, it became usual that power towers were blown out by one of the terror groups trying to take over the city. Other times I wrote the letters to distract my mind from the fear, after watching news of another terrorist group murdering innocent people around our country. Fear, it became an unsolicited visitor. A pest. A void in the stomach. It became nights and nights of silent tears. I wonder if Anne Marie feels the same.
We lost track of each other years ago. I don’t know if she stopped sending letters, or if I stopped writing. I don’t know. But today I think of her, and thinking of her, I think of all the thousands who are crying right this moment, those who have their hearts broken.
After hearing of the despicable events in Paris, and the horrible attacks in Beirut the day before, I felt the same when I was a ten-year-old girl living in Lima, hearing the boom of the power towers exploding, and the gun fire opened by soldiers. I felt the void in the stomach, and the inability to make sense of the world.
But, instead of just sinking in fear, today I renew my commitment of doing my part in changing the ever-going madness around the world. I do my part from where I stand by raising tolerant, respectful, loving children who will turn into tolerant, respectful, thinking adults. I do my part by raising global citizens, children who do love their country, but love their Earth even more. I do my part by spreading a message of understanding beyond borders, languages, and races when I visit schools around the world.
Today I love my children more than ever, my neighbors more than ever, the people who aren’t like me more than ever, the people who don’t think like me more than ever. Because we are all in this together. And we have nowhere else to go. Today, I choose to love the human race. It’s painfully hard, but I choose love.