I was angry, had been angry all day but now that I was alone in the darkness of my bedroom, I allowed myself to feel it. I felt the hotness of the emotion bubbling in my stomach, plaguing me until I could think of nothing else. I tried chatting with friends, tried journalling, read Scripture but I couldn’t shake the feeling. At 10pm I decided to just go to bed, at a total loss of what to do.
As I settled under the thick blanket, I heard a cacophony of children’s voices ricocheting off the stone buildings. Their calls and laughs were tempoed by a thump-thump noise that I couldn’t identify, and out of sheer curiosity, I stumbled my way through the darkness toward my window to peek out from behind the Palestinian flag that served as a curtain. There, on the recently completed street, were a gaggle of children – the oldest no more than 12, the youngest about two. The thumping noise was the sound of them throwing deflated bicycle tires to each other and either catching them with their hands or positioning their slim bodies so that they would pass through the middle of it.
I sat watching for a while, envious of their companionship and their playfulness – my toes itched with a desire to join them in their game. After a few moments of deliberation, I decided to get dressed and quietly made my way down our dim stairwell to sit on the lip of the doorjamb – their jubilation was so infectious, I just wanted to be part of it in some fashion. I watched for a while, chuckling to myself as I watched the only girl – the oldest of the troupe – push around some of the younger boys. Boy, could I identify with that when I was her age!
As quiet as I thought I had been, I watched as they gathered against the wall furthest from me – a loose knot of long limbs, scabby knees, and dusty hair. They were having a consensus. I smiled widely as the bravest of the group rode his bicycle toward me, the others following behind at a slower pace.
“Uh-oh,” I thought to myself, “I’ve been found out.” Which, perhaps, is exactly what I had wanted.
“Marhaba,” I greeted them. All at once they began speaking, a rapid wave of Arabic soaring straight over my head.
“What’s your name?” the girl asked me.
“Ana Leia,” and at that, she jumped for joy. Her name, you see, was close to mine. She proceeded to introduce the 10 or so others, some shaking my hands, some too scared to venture too close but all examining my pale, strange American-ness. After some time, they scattered away with the wind, waving goodbye to me over their shoulders and I began the climb back up the steps to the apartment. As I undressed slowly, climbed back into my narrow bed I realized that these playful and curious children had lifted me out of my anger, lifted me out of myself with nothing more than the sound of their jubilant play.
The children of Al-Khalil had purged and purified my heart. To them, I am thankful.