The gift of opportunity is a gift of sublime proportions. It is something you often don’t realize the scale or enormity of until it’s right in front of you, or until the moment you have it in your hands.
That opportunity can be big, such as a job offer—or as simple as getting to wake up in the morning, clear your head and start your day. Perhaps even more precious than that is getting the chance to live the life you want to live. It sounds so utterly simple, so second nature, that we sometimes just go through the motions as if it’s routine.
When we truly stop and take a moment to process what’s going on in the world today, however, it strips away almost everything we know about our “simple” lives. Waking up in the morning might still be a gift, but we see that the freedom to live as one pleases is a luxury that often comes at a price. Maybe that price isn’t always up to us to pay, but instead, it comes at the cost of others—whether it be near or far.
Take the story of Alan and Gyan Mohammad for example. Hundreds of thousands of lives were recently lost in Syria while trying to escape ISIS, leaving many other people displaced. The trek led refugees to cross the mountainous borders of Iraq into Turkey. For this young brother and sister duo, however, the journey presented another level of hardship and danger.
Both Alan, 30, and Gyan, 29, were born with muscular dystrophy—a degenerative disease which causes a gradual, increasing weakness and deterioration of skeletal muscles in the human body. The disease has left them in wheelchairs, and CNN.com offers an in-depth look at what their escape from war-torn Syria was like:
“It was a very difficult journey. For “normal people”, it is very difficult. But for disabled people, it is like a miracle, because all the borders between the two countries [Iraq and Turkey] are mountains.” Alan tells CNN.com contributor Monica Costa Riba.
The siblings’ younger sister reportedly walked ahead, leading a horse and clearing a path. Their mother, brother and another sister struggled to follow behind while pushing their wheelchairs through the rough terrain. However, that’s the very moment when disaster struck.
The family attempted to flee Syria and cross over into Turkey three times. After being denied the right to cross by Turkish police, they tried taking a different route—this time to Iraq, where they ended up staying for a year-and-a-half. Then they were forced to flee again due to the resurfacing of ISIS.
So Alan and his family packed up his and his sister’s wheelchairs, and attempted to cross the border into Turkey for a fourth time. This time, they met a group of foreign smugglers, who told the family that they could take them to a beach where they would be safe. They set their sights on Turkey, but crashed into a small boat that had 60 people onboard before they could get there.
When they arrived at the beach to seek refuge, however, they received more crushing news: the wheelchairs could not be accommodated. In fact, they were forced to leave them behind.
The Sept. 7 article from CNN.com recounts the Mohammad family’s entire journey, along with more comments from Alan. Their dire situation eventually reached the point where their necessities were considered extra baggage, so Alan devised a way for two horses to carry the load. One horse carried him and his sister while the other carried their wheelchairs. In the end, they found safety and refuge in Turkey—but not without paying a price.
The whole ordeal was an act of survival, more than anything else:
“Here [in Turkey], we have doctors and teachers. We left our country because of the war,” Alan says. “I want to say to the European people that want to welcome refugees, thank you. And to the others, don’t be afraid.”
For me, this is one of those stories in which it’s difficult to separate the journalistic side from the personal side. It’s difficult because I know what it means to struggle with the baggage that comes with a disability. Yet, I have to maintain a certain level of professionalism in my telling of this story. So I feel I have a responsibility to tell it right, but hold back some of my emotions on this one.
I guess all I can say is this story doesn’t make me happy. It doesn’t make me sad, nor content or at ease. Instead, this story makes me wonder about the current state of our world—what violence and war and war have already led to, and the long-term effects it has—and will have.
In my mind, it’s not safe to just think about tomorrow or the next day. Although, I think that’s the way humanity should live, because nothing is ever promised or guaranteed. On the other side of that, the world we live in now has taken away some of that freedom to not be worried about our own safety and well-being.
That’s the world we’re living in these days, but I refuse to be afraid of it.
Photo Credit: www.nbcnews.com