Open your eyes.

Know yourself.

Take courage.

These are the three essential teachings that Sasha Chanoff brought to a crowd of close to fifty people at last week’s Allen J. Worters Lecture. Mesmerizing us with his chilling tale of making a life-or-death moral choice in war-torn Congo, Sasha inspired the group by describing the work of RefugePoint, the refugee resettlement organization that he founded in 2005.

In his book, From Crisis to Calling: Finding your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions, Sasha and his father demonstrate how we can respond as Sasha did, by opening our eyes to the problems — and solutions — right in front of us.

Like Hagar in last week’s Torah portion, he opened his eyes in a time of great despair and discovered — like the well of water in front of Hagar — a way to help resettle refugees.

By knowing himself and listening to the truth inside of him, Sasha took courage and made a decision that saved lives.

I urge you to learn more about the refugee crisis and about the work of RefugePoint.

You can hear Sasha’s story on Kind World or watch the video.

You can learn more about RefugePoint, get updates, and support their work, by sending an email or go directly to the site.

You can purchase Sasha’s book, From Crisis to Calling:  Finding your Moral Center in the Toughest Decisions, at Sasha’s site.

Below you will find the poem by African writer Chinua Achebe that I offered in my opening remarks on Friday night. The poem tells a story that does not need to end in death. We have the power to take action, even a small action, to save the life of a refugee mother and child. We must heed the commandment, “Do not despair!”

No Madonna and Child could touch
Her tenderness for a son
She soon would have to forget. . . .
The air was heavy with odors of diarrhea,
Of unwashed children with washed-out ribs
And dried-up bottoms waddling in labored steps

Behind blown-empty belliesOther mothers there
Had long ceased to care, but not this one
:
She held a ghost-smile between her teeth,
And in her eyes the memory
Of a mother’s pride. . . . She had bathed him
And rubbed him down with bare palms
.
She
took from their bundle of possessions
A broken comb and combed
The rust-colored hair left on his skull
And then—humming in her eyesbegan carefully to part it.
In their former life this was perhaps
A little daily act of no consequence

Before his breakfast and school; now she did it
Like putting flowers on a tiny grave.

Posted on November 8, 2017 .