The 4-year-old son of a friend of mine told his mother this morning in the car, “Shawn would be happy to tell me about living in Egypt. She lived there a few days.” Hahaha. Love it. Cute, brilliant kid. My friend reached out to me online and asked if I had any interesting factoids to offer her son.
What do I tell a 4-year-old about Egypt?
Hmmm. Well, this is what I shared.
This is where Egypt is. Near Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Sudan. And not too far from Greece.
There are fresh fruits and vegetables every day in the city, brought in from the farms.
The Nile is beautiful, almost magical and goes from Alexandria on the Mediterranean Sea, through the middle of Cairo city, and all the way down to the country of Uganda.
The Egyptian people want change. So they paint the walls and they stand outside together demanding to be heard.
And in some ways, it is very much like Chicago. (Saving parking spaces)
But this 4-year-old was thinking about death today. Like many children his age, death is an arena of curiosity. He said he thought there were no funerals in Egypt.
And no chairs in the pyramids.
I explained that there are funerals here for the Christians. The Muslims visit the grieving family at their home after the first day after a person has died. They must be buried within 24 hours, and in a simple white cloth.
The pyramids have granite coffins, which are empty now. No chairs inside. And they are built in steps or layers. There are a bunch of chairs outside though, for tourists to watch the light show.
After this exchange, I thought a lot about death too. Do I have any questions about death? When do we reach the age when we fear it? How is it we never know what to say when someone else is grieving? How are some deaths expected and understood, some lingering and dreaded, some shocking and ripping?
I thought about how children and teens with terminal disease have the same sort of expression and walk as those children and teens living in neighborhoods rampant with political violence or gun crime. And actually it’s the same as those children and teens who are homeless, kicked out of their homes for being gay or transexual. I’ve had the honor of dancing with all these kids during my experiences.
These great kids can speak of death as an acknowledged step in their stories. Please watch this for one example. They are sadly comfortable with the topic. They may be apathetic to the fight, or they may be determined to survive against the odds, or they might ready themselves for the journey. They see their peers and friends die. And then they go. We read about them.
17-years-old and standing on the corner. A basketball gripped in his hand. On his birthday.
10-years-old and laying in bed. An IV hooked to her arm. A few weeks after her birthday.
15-years-old and joining a movement in Tahrir Square. A stone in his hands. On his mom’s birthday.
6-years-old and crossing the street. Nothing in her hands. On Thanksgiving.
In America, children die. Their names are heard. Foundations are founded. Laws and legacies are created. 5Ks run. Their graves are visited. In Egypt, children die. And either it is a private matter or they are martyred in posters and murals.
I know this is becoming the darkest of blog posts. Apologies. But I hope you can feel the hope and action in it.
All these children deserve our support and love in their dying, in their living. We could offer something small that might mean so much… a party, a family photo shoot, a song, a dance or guitar class, a chance to perform on a stage, a mini-vacation, meeting a hero, a CV or advocacy website, a trip to a world wonder. They should all be able to “make a wish” and maybe even a few wishes. We can hear their wishes and make them come true. That’s what I wish for this Christmas, that everyone reading this will reach out to a family, school, orphanage, shelter, center, hospital before the year comes to an end, and give a child facing disease or rampant violence or homelessness something small that might mean so much. Grant a wish.