Julie and I will be married for 8 years this September. In those eight years we have definitely had our ups and downs, but nothing has come close to the highs we have reached since 31st July 2010. Reuben Jack Cavan was born. I remember the nurse passing me this big lump of skin and bones. This wee face looked back up at me. I was given some time alone with him whilst Julie was recovering from the labour. I remember being in a room and for some reason I was fortunate to be in a room that didn't have anyone else in it because I can remember audibly explaining to him that, in no uncertain terms, just how much I loved him. There was an energy running through my veins that I experienced when Ollie was born twenty months later but have rarely experienced since. It was one of the most powerful feelings I have ever experienced. Like if someone had told me to run through a wall, I could have. I was afraid of the devastation I would cause if anyone was to hurt them.
This feeling has travelled with me, literally everywhere I go. I try and look upon other children especially of the same age with a heart that I have for my boys.
Thirty minutes into our first visit to our first camp on day one, my attempt to do this, had me in trouble.
I was walking around getting some photos. I looked over to where our van was parked and there was a lady sitting on the ground and a little girl who must have only been seven years old was leaning into her. I thought it was a really interesting picture so I asked her if she minded if I took another photo. My friend Chris, who is on staff at Heart for Lebanon and not only speaks Arabic but better English than me, was standing by and I asked him to clarify with the lady if it was ok. I got the green light and got the shots I wanted. Something about it intrigued me though. Chris was still there, so I asked him for the names of the lady and the little girl. So Chris engaged the lady in conversation. After the pleasantries of finding out their names, I asked her what relation the little girl was to her.
"I am her grandmother, her mother [my daughter] was killed in the war."
I was immediately taken aback by the matter of fact nature of this news. I hadn't become accustomed to the reality where a story like this was so heartbreaking common. I asked if the girl remembered her mother, to which I was informed that she did. I was hit by a wave of empathy for this little girl, her eyes now told me more of her story.
I hadn't even noticed the little boy standing to the side. The grandmother introduced him to us too.
"This is Nemr, he is four years old, he is my grandson, and the little girl's cousin."
Now my attention turned directly to him. My mind immediately jumped to Reuben back at home. His face was replaced by Reuben's and my face lit up, I recognised that feeling pour through my veins. I asked Chris to repeat the name to me, he said it's English translation would be Tiger. I asked about Tiger's story.
Sometimes, since I have been home, I wish I hadn't asked this question. As the next few minutes was a blur.
I watched Chris interact with the grandmother. She whilst chatting to Chris, nudged the little boy. Chris reacted and seemed to immediately comfort the boy.
For some reason I continued to take photos of what was happening in front of me. I still don't know why I did, I still can't work out if I am glad I did.
Chris turned to me and said.
"His father was slaughtered in front of him"
I watched as this little boy crumbled in front of me. The grandmother had encouraged Nemr to tell us what he saw. Chris stepped in at this point and said how we didn't need to know, and immediately comforted the boy as he broke down. Watching his little head drop with the weight of his memories was horrific. He then sat back on his heels and covered his eyes.
I had to take a step back.
My heart was broken.
I then sat and watched as Chris in the most gentle way tried to reassure him that he was safe and that he didn't have to share his story.
I have been a Christian for over 15 years. Everyday I struggle with what it means. However, its in moments where I see people show love to each other that I am more confident than ever that Jesus is real.
It was clear that Chris' heart was broken. He stayed with the boy, just being peaceful with him. Using his hands, gently placing them on his little knee and his back allowing his comforting presence to give the peace and reassurance that little Tiger needed . Not through any supernatural interaction, just the simple act of human touch.
I asked Chris about this afterwards and he told me that you hear stories like this so often that it would be easy to become numb to them.
Tiger later rallied, and I got to take some photos of him as he played with his friends and ran around laughing. You can see some of those photos from yesterdays post. To see the wonder and innocence of play was a sharp reminder to me of how young he is, and how we should be doing everything we can to protect the innocence of childhood. Seeing that robbed from a little four year old boy is one of the hardest things I have ever experienced.
Unfortunately, whilst this particular story had a massive impact on me. We continued to hear stories like this for the whole time we visited the temporary Syrian communities in Lebanon.
Click HERE for Part Four