I was at a play place a few weeks ago chatting with another mom about our summer plans. She made an off-hand comment about how play places like the one we were in made her nervous and how nice it must be to spend the summer in a safe place like America.
At that particular moment, I couldn’t see any of my three kids, including my one year old. They were all climbing or bouncing or playing somewhere in the jungle gym in front of us. In America, I would NEVER let my children out of my sight.
One of the conversations we will be having soon with our girls is how to interact (or more appropriately NOT interact) with strangers when we travel.
Random man kissing your child on the cheek and giving her a piece of candy in Beirut? An everyday, socially acceptable occurrence.
Random man kissing your child on the cheek and giving her a piece of candy in America? Call the police.
When we are back in the States, one of the most common questions we get asked is about safety. These days I very rarely feel unsafe in Beirut. The last time we were in America, we took the kids to see a movie. The theater was empty except for another family and about halfway through the movie, two teenage boys came in and sat down in the front row. My heart began to race and immediately I started thinking about what to do if they started shooting at us. My brain was telling me that they were probably just bored and theater hopping, but my pulse was telling me a different story. After about five minutes, they left giggling and it hit me like a wall of bricks. In that moment I felt more scared for my safety in America then I do in Beirut.
It’s a weird thing. And I blame the media almost entirely for it. What stories do you read in the news about Beirut? Bombs and violent protests, right? And what are we hearing right now from America? Rapists in the bathrooms and child traffickers in Target. Seriously. I’ve spent two thirds of my life living in the USA, and yet there is a small part of me, in the deep deep recesses of my mind that is actually nervous about taking my kids there.
It goes back to what I’ve blogged about before – that what is known is more comfortable, it feels more safe, it’s easier to relate to. I can’t even begin to describe what a strange feeling it is to realize that in so many ways Beirut is becoming more “known” to me than the US. I felt this in a way when I moved back to America after living overseas for a few years when I was young. I didn’t know what clothes were cool, what bands teenagers my age were listening to, what TV shows were popular.
But this – where I feel “safe” – hits at a deeper, more primal level. It throws me off. It shakes up my thoughts on my identity. But in the midst of all the inner turmoil, I can’t help but be thankful for a God who is always there, even in a scary place like… America.