All I Want for Christmas is...

Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

Arial image Aleppo 2015 Hosam Katan - Reuters

… help for the men, women and children in and around Aleppo and other parts of Syria.

This year, I've noticed that how I feel about Christmas is different. The "holiday spirit" seems disconnected for me, because of what is going on in Syria, especially Aleppo.  I can't and do not want to separate myself from that story because of this thing called solidarity. And my desire is that my gifts, both given and received, be in the form of donation to Syrian humanitarian aid.

Which, even though, and because, Aleppo is scheduled to be fully evacuated this week -  Alhamdulillah (thanks be to God), is needed more than ever, as humanitarian organizations now have access to people in need.

Why do I care this much? How did it all begin?

Not just in the last few weeks. I'd say my solidary started well before 2011 in response to prayers for this gift of connection. Be careful what you pray for… Because having a spirit of solidarity can hurt. A lot. And it comes with obligation. To help wherever and however, and continue to teach others and spread the word and when all that is exhausted to simply honor them, stand with them in their suffering.

Having in early 2011 visited the Holy Land, standing near the border between Israel and Syria, I hold in my mind the memory and image of looking across to the beautiful rolling hills and trying to fathom war in such a peaceful setting.

I also see in my mind's eye the wall around Bethlehem, and the distant hills where the shepherds would have been guarding their sheep. Mary and Joseph at least found a cave. Tens of thousands of Syrians have nowhere to go.

It was in 2011 that the Arab Spring began; a series of anti-government protests, uprisings and armed rebellions that spread across the Middle East. Remember Egypt ousting Mubarak? The people decided they did not want to be ruled oppressively and they acted. And won. It wasn't really that simple, I'm just distilling it down here.

I moved to the Middle East - Doha, Qatar - in early 2012 for a one year Clinical Informatics contract. Qatar, home of the independent Al Jazeera news company, supported the Arab Spring, believing people deserved to start life over in peace . There seemed real possibilities that despotic leaders would be removed, and I held hope for the people in those countries.

While in Doha, I befriended a woman from Egypt, exiled so to speak to work in Doha for her own safetyShe missed her home and family desperately, and would eventually return to them. I hope she's ok.

During my time in Qatar I always felt safe. It was a wealthy, happy country, a moderate Islamic state. There were actually many more expats than nationals, which gave my experience there a surreal sense. Being there I learned more about the culture, Islam, and especially how much I determined for myself that the desert was a nice place to visit but I didn't want to live there.

So I made my way back to Midwest USA in the spring of 2013, and kept my ears open for what was going on there.

Curiously, although I purposely refrain from watching, reading and listening to the news for personal reasons, Aleppo caught my attention about a year ago and has called to me ever since.

OMG - Oh My Growth!~ I have just published a YouTube video called Appeal for Aleppo. I did this to generate more traction and public awareness about my passion to raise money by auctioning four of my original paintings - a quadriptych named Aleppo - for humanitarian aid in and around Aleppo. You can watch it here.  

What do you want for Christmas this year? I think the familiar traditions and trimmings are lovely, and I would not want to detract from that for a bit. I look forward to the white elephant (aka silly) give exchange that is a fun family tradition

Perhaps as we gather as family, we could talk a bit about the very humble beginnings of Jesus' life. And acknowledge that today there are so many displaced Syrian people who would be grateful for a cave to call home.

Then, maybe we could take up a collection in thanksgiving for our blessings, and send it to a Syrian charity.

Out of solidarity. 

Love wins.

All right... I gotta tell you, having spent the time over the last couple of hour fine tuning this blog and creating/uploading the video to YouTube, my passion has been ignited, and my spirits have lifted. Knowing the the world is listening is doing my hear and spirit a ton of good.

Love wins.

PS - did you know that Christmas is celebrated in Syria? Check it out here. Talk about solidarity...

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Aleppo: Deconstructed or Connected?

Have you had a chance yet to read Blogpost #25 Aleppo? If not, please do so. It remains very much on my mind since I wrote it. 

The regime is telling the people there to leave or die. Yet those who leave risk being detained and/or tortured and/or killed. Plus, I have read that the rebels are pressuring people who want to leave to stay. With no hospitals, invasive medical procedures are being conducted in basements without anesthetic. Talk about being between an exponential rock and hard place.

Ouch. I mean really, OUCH. My soul hurts.

As you know, I have chosen to auction my quadriptych (four panels in one) "Aleppo" painting to support the victims and rescuers in and around Aleppo,  Syria. Yet something niggled ever since that post a couple of days ago. Really niggled. Some thing wasn't quite right.

I figured it out today.

I am meant to give more freely. To model giving more freely out of love and solidarity for my Syrian brothers and sisters.

I had my 25% wrong. I was going to donate 25% of the proceedings, and it's supposed to be the other way around.

I'm going to keep 25% of the proceedings. I will donate 75% to The British Red Cross who is on the ground today outside Aleppo providing emergency aid.

Don't get me wrong. It is my intention to prosper in my business, and I believe with all my heart that success finds me. I'm learning that it is through providing a service to others, by serving, that I can really help others. 

This time, this feels right.

So, here again is Aleppo, my original quadriptych paintings, acrylic on canvas, four 14"x14" panels making up one image 28"x28" image. It it designed to be hung in one of two ways:

Deconstructed - this represents the brokenness and division of the city and its people.

 

Connected: This represents my dream that Aleppo will heal and rebuild in peace.

We can together serve up love and compassion and solidarity and relief. We can raise money for a humanitarian cause, to help in one of modern history's most horrific humanitarian crises. To help our fellow humans, our brothers and sisters in and around Aleppo.

My ask of you?

Come forth and enter your bid below! The winning bidder will also receive an assortment of Abundance Art notecards in addition to the paintings.

And if you can't bid, consider making even a small contribution to a Syrian/Aleppo relief agency of your choice. Just google it. 

And if you can't donate, remember the people in your thoughts, your prayers. Imagine peace.

Let's show the world what love and solidarity look like.

 

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Aleppo

Does the number twenty five hold any significance for you?

It keeps popping up for me, as I reflect on what is mine to share in this my twenty fifth blogpost.  I feel very passionate about what's been bubbling up for some time now. I can't not share this.

When I turned twenty five, I thought to myself, "Wow. A quarter of a century old!" Wow. I was so young!

Now nearing fifty nine and oh-so-much wiser and compassionate, I want to use this number to share the idea of solidarity and what it can look like in today's world.

What does solidarity mean to you?

Rather than give you a dictionary definition, here's what it means to me. That I am somehow connected to and impacted by my fellow members of the human race. Wherever they are, however they are living, whether they are suffering or not. I may or may not be able to change anything.

However I NOTICE them, I CARE about them. I HELP them if, when and how I can.

This last year, one topic has stolen and broken my heart, that being the civil war in Syria, especially in Aleppo. Today, the rebel forces are all but wiped out, their last "stronghold" being the Eastern portion of that city.

As you know, twenty five times ten thousand is two hundred fifty thousand. 250,000. A quarter of a million.

Did you know that that is the number of people trapped in Eastern Aleppo on this the 100th day of besiegement by the Syrian regime? It used to be more, but so many have died. And now, as tens of thousands attempt to flee, many are being targeted by regime forces with gunfire and bombs.

What about solidarity? How has that shown up?

Numerous organizations, including the Syrian Civil Defense, International Red Cross, and Catholic Relief Services have devoted resources to help victims and refugees. You can learn more here

Or, just google Aleppo relief.

For a long time now, the civilian rescue group called The White Helmets has been raising money, putting it to life saving use, with rescue and emergency medical training, ambulances and extraction equipment, etc. These are the men who run in to rescue after the bombs hit.

But now the bombing and gunfire is so incessant that the White Helmets often cannot get to the victims in time. They have to make decisions on how best to use their limited gasoline. They cannot keep up.

Their greatest joy is saving the life of another person.

Their greatest sorrow is hearing someone alive under the rubble, and finding them dead.

My emotions were shaken after listening to a journalist recently returned from Aleppo who discredited The White Helmets as puppets of terrorist forces. About this time, the White Helmets were featured in a Netflix documentary and were being considered for the Nobel Peace Prize. I didn't know what to make of it all.

Solidarity kicked in. All I could think about were my Syrian brothers and sisters. Their humanity. Their innate dignity. And their horrific life and losses.

Today, I am facing the possibility, what may become the reality... that the regime will accomplish its goal of destroying killing wiping out those who remain. Whether through bombing, gunfire, lack of medical care, and/or starvation.

I feel the desperation of the noose tightening around the collective necks of these innocent people of God.

Solidarity? Today and every day, I am praying for relief. For an end to the suffering of my brothers and sisters. I am honoring their instinct to survive under impossible circumstances. And I am more and more understanding what some are saying, that the ones whose lives are taken by the bombs are the lucky ones.

Solidarity? Today and every day I am praying love, peace, consolation in solidarity with my brothers and sisters. I am intending a power greater than hate, greater than violence, and that's what I'm sending out into the world. For even though I cannot change what is happening in Aleppo, I can change how I treat those in my life and in my daily encounters. With love and compassion. Encouragement. Fairness.

Back in June, when I became aware of just how bad things were getting, I was moved to paint my first quadriptych. One image across four panels. Each panel 14"x14". This came from my heart, and only later would the words form to describe it.

Twenty five percent is one fourth of something. What showed up on these four in one panels was deep cobalt blue, with some black and white. Diversity. The circular movements of my arm and brush revealed wholeness, connectedness.

And suddenly I knew its name:

Aleppo

For you can no more take apart these pieces and have a whole than our world can lose the people of Aleppo and not be broken by it.

Solidarity? Hell yes.

Let's turn the word into action.

I now know what I'm called to do, and how you can help me serve.

I am auctioning off Aleppo, starting at $1000.00 for all four pieces together. I am going to donate 25% of the proceeds to the British Red Cross, Syria Campaign. (I just donated 25 GBP to them.) Auction ends December 25th. How fitting...

How can you help?

Bid to raise the price. Someone else bid.

Bid again. Let's make something big happen.

Think hard about the blessings you have in your life.

Think hard about how you spend your money.

Notice the roof over your head.

Notice how safe you are.

Donate to a Syrian relief organization of your choice.

 

 Assalam alaykum. Peace be upon you.

 

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