This piece is particularly dear to my heart, and it’s one of my most popular, originally published by New Madrid, Journal of Contemporary Literature and reprinted in two anthologies, but it’s never been available online … until now.
The chador rippled and billowed in even the slight wind of a woman’s own passing, lending a poetic, ethereal quality to these mothers, petite and demur and preferring the company of other women.
One mother was none of those things. She was tall, with a long, blocky face, lined and leathery from sun and wind. There was a faint patina of sandy dirt permanently ground into the lower edge of her chador, made of a thicker material that didn’t billow so romantically. I guessed from her thick, coarse hands and her easy manner with the fathers that she must have been a Bedouin shepherd or farmer like my Jordanian neighbors.
Forty Iraqi children, each with one parent.
Doctors gathered by Operation Smile from around the world.
A handful of Peace Corps Volunteers.
Donated hotel rooms in Amman, Jordan.
These are powerful ingredients for waging peace, changing hearts and minds, saving whole generations of families on the brink. The week I spent with those little ones in that hotel was powerful in ways I never expected.
I don’t know if it contributed to a greater peace. I don’t know if we effectuated more than individual change. But for the children and mothers we touched, we made a difference.
I still think about those families, wonder about those mothers and children, what the intervening years between then and now have brought to them and their communities. I’ll never know. I don’t know if they’re even still alive. I can only tell this small story of our handful of days together.
And now you can stand witness to our story, too, over at The BeZine Summer 2021: Waging Peace through Finding Common Ground.