I was on my way to pick up my niece and switched on the radio. Kate Adie was introducing the next report from “Our Correspondent” who then proceeded to describe her recent visit to the Medicine Sans Frontier hospital in Aleppo, where she had met a 5-year-old victim of the Syrian conflict.
Unable to walk for a year, still needing a hip replacement, and with an inoperable piece of shrapnel in his brain causing a degree of paralysis, this young boy is an inspiration to both children and adults alike. A huge grin, kind eyes, and grit determination propel him forwards in his life. He seems to be living proof of the maxim: “it’s not what happens to you and around you, it’s what happens within you that matters”. But, as easy as that may be to say, just how does a child who has lost his mother and his health to war manage to actually live it?
And yet somehow, despite all that he has endured, this little guy has managed to find a way to still be open to joy, hope and love; to meaning and purpose in his life.
Working with military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress, seeing how the effects of war follow them home to tear apart their peace and civilian life, I am very saddened by the cruelty and pain people inflict on each other, by how so many lives are ruined, and by how the shock waves of these traumas ripple outwards through family, friends, and whole communities. But while there is no denying the incalculable cost of war, there are also stories such as that of our 5-year-old Syrian, who will, for me, always be an unending inspiration, reminding me of the heights to which the human heart can soar.
A picture of him now looks out at me from my laptop – that big grin, those kind eyes – urging me many times a day to grow my heart as big as his.