“Children are like wet cement whatever falls on them makes an impression.”
As surprising as it sounds, I have never given any deep thought to how children living in Sicily (and of course, other places) are attempting to grasp the migrant/refugee crisis, a crises of such epic proportions that parents, teachers and others must surely be in frequent conversation on the topic. Of course they must be influenced by the many vivid images on television news and print media. In fact, a child in Sicily is likely to see and encounter the very people who are the ground zero victims of the humanitarian crisis. What are these children to make of it? How do they process what they see and what they hear? And because of the natural law of growing up, they will not be small forever. How we talk to them of and about the crisis matters. It matters what they hear. A perfect time to ground them in compassion and caring. To bring them out of themselves enough to be aware of the things going on around them. Too young? They already “know”. And what they “know” will need to be nuanced and mediated.
On a popular Italian-American site the other day, readers were responding to an article about how some refugees had been assigned a chef to cook for them. Since I have encountered many refugees in Sicily, I can attest to the fact that the food they are given is not only unpalatable to them, but is given in small amounts. Pasta is the staple dish and their bodies are not used to the starch , nor the lack of calories. Food is incredibly important to our well-being, and the food of where we come from can often be the only comfort we have if we need to travel far from home—if in fact, we are fortunate enough to be able to shop and cook for ourselves. The comments on the site lacked an understanding and compassion of the migrants and refugees so much so that the sentiments expressed bordered on fascism. Cruel and horrific. “If they don’t like the food, why don’t they just swim back to where they came from!” Most all others cruelly missed the point entirely: “What?! They don’t like Italian food? It’s the best cuisine in the world!”
These thoughts predominate a lot of talk about migrants and refugees. This generation is listening. How we mediate and explain,with intelligence and compassion, will influence how this crisis of epic proportions will be handled in the future, by the very children who are now watching in unfold in ways both dramatic and chaotic.
My friend Davide’s son, quite poignantly, filled a little Lego boat with Lego migrants. One wonders what he was thinking when he made it. But, he did in fact make it. He’s just a little boy in Sicily. With the crisis unfolding all around him.